Human trafficking happens everywhere.

What exactly is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, with more than 40 million victims worldwide.

Labor trafficking happens when a person is forced, lied to, threatened, or coerced to provide labor or services. This can happen in any industry, but it is especially common in agriculture, food services, domestic services, and factories. Top risk factors include immigration status, debt, economic disadvantage or low levels of formal education.

Labor trafficking happens when a person is forced, lied to, threatened, or coerced to provide labor or services. This can happen in any industry, but it is especially common in agriculture, food services, domestic services, and factories. Top risk factors include immigration status, debt, economic disadvantage or low levels of formal education.

Simply put, human trafficking is any time a person is forced, tricked, or manipulated into providing labor or sexual service for someone else’s financial gain. Or, anytime a child is involved in a commercial sex act, whether or not there is someone directly forcing them to do so.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000) defines severe human trafficking as —

(8) SEVERE FORMS OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS. – The term “severe forms of trafficking in persons” means –

(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or

(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, soliciting or advertising of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

(9) SEX TRAFFICKING.- The term “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.

Child sex trafficking happens anytime a person under the age of 18 is involved in a commercial sex act. In child sex trafficking cases, it is not necessary to prove force, fraud, or coercion. Any child in sex trafficking is a victim — there is no such thing as a child prostitute.

Child sex trafficking happens anytime a person under the age of 18 is involved in a commercial sex act. In child sex trafficking cases, it is not necessary to prove force, fraud, or coercion. Any child in sex trafficking is a victim — there is no such thing as a child prostitute.

Does it happen here?

It’s common to think of a crime happening on the other side of the world when we hear “human trafficking.” However, human trafficking, both labor and sex trafficking, happen in every country in the world, including the United States. This crime effects men, women, boys and girls, of all ages.

Learn more about human trafficking in the communities Unbound serves.

How does this happen?

Human trafficking usually happens under the radar, so it can be hard to get a complete picture of what this crime looks like. However, there are some common themes surrounding trafficking observed throughout the United States.

Traffickers often look for the unmet needs and desires of their victims. Those needs may be immediate physical needs like food and shelter, emotional needs like belonging and safety, or material desires that come with a lifestyle they can’t afford.

Traffickers often look for the unmet needs and desires of their victims. Those needs may be immediate physical needs like food and shelter, emotional needs like belonging and safety, or material desires that come with a lifestyle they can’t afford.

1) Traffickers look for vulnerabilities as they target victims. In labor trafficking, common vulnerabilities include being from another country, documentation status, lack of economic opportunity, and low levels of formal education. In sex trafficking, common vulnerabilities include homelessness, history of abuse, involvement in the commercial sex industry, substance abuse, and more. For child sex trafficking, other common vulnerabilities include low self-esteem, familial strife, running away, involvement in child welfare and more. Although these are common themes, anyone can be a victim.

2) Many victims don’t realize they are human trafficking victims. Traffickers are often expert manipulators and may lead their victims down a path of exploitation, filled with lies, false promises, and coercion. This makes it very difficult for victims to reach out for help, either from fear, false beliefs, or lack of awareness. Victims of human trafficking are in our schools, our neighborhoods, our industries, our communities.

3) Trafficking is a supply and demand business. Because there is a demand for cheap labor and a demand for commercial sex, human trafficking continues to exist. With sex trafficking, engagement in the commercial sex industry, whether in viewing pornography or purchasing sex, is creating profit for traffickers that drives demand. As we work to prevent trafficking and strengthen the protective factors of our communities, we also have to educate and fight the demand.

What can I do to help?

Know the signs

You can help by being aware of human trafficking and the signs to look for. If you ever suspect human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Never approach a potential trafficker or trafficking victim, for your safety and the safety of the victim. In emergencies, call 9-1-1.

What to look for: Labor Trafficking

  • Not free to come and go

  • Not in possession of money, ID or documentation

  • Works excessively long or unusual hours

  • Owes a large, un-payable, growing debt

  • Recruited through false promises

  • Lacks access to basic needs or medical care

  • Shows signs of violence or assault

  • Lacks knowledge of whereabouts

What to look for: Sex Trafficking

  • Hiding bruises, scars, marks or tattoos

  • Frequent movement or unstable housing

  • Involvement in commercial sex industry

  • Being controlled or manipulated by another person

What to look for: Child Sex Trafficking

  • Skipping school, running away, or traveling a lot

  • Hanging out with a different group, talking differently, or dressing differently

  • Dating or spending time with someone much older

  • Sudden possession of expensive items like clothes, video games, purses or shoes

  • Using drugs or getting involved in a gang

Are you ready to act now?

Find out how you can join the fight against human trafficking.