But proving it is difficult. And a report published last year by the Urban Institute and Northeastern University suggests why: a lack of law enforcement resources, legal guidance and cooperation from victims. But Burke said if what victims have experienced cannot be proven, she at least hopes that public awareness will put pressure on those who profit from exploited laborers.
“I have clients with cuts on their arms and have been burned by pans, and they sleep with bugs biting them all night long,” she said. “If you are an employer who knows those are the conditions, and continue to pay somebody and use exploitation as a form of fear, I believe you’re just as much culpable as any trafficker.”