Human Trafficking

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Let's End Human Trafficking Where We Live

Across all 50 states, victims of human trafficking silently cry for help. You can help us fight this injustice and bring hope to thousands in our very own communities.

Human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery, involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of exploitation through forced labor or commercial sex acts.

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888



human trafficking underground industry.

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rise in reported cases of human trafficking in America, from 2016 to 2020

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of sex trafficking died from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect in the U.S. in 2020.

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of polled human trafficking survivors estimated that they were 17 years old or younger when they were first (sexually) exploited.

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victims globally to date

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  • EDUCATION - Preventing new victims through education and increased awareness of human trafficking.
  • JUSTICE - Creating and enforcing laws that prosecute, incarcerate and/or deter criminals and protect victims.
  • RESCUE - Identify and empower any person that has been forced, manipulated, coerced or exploited to participate in any type of labor or commercial sex acts.
  • SUPPORT - Holistic rehabilitation, restoration, and healing from the trauma experience by human trafficking victims.

"If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong."
-Abraham Lincoln

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Program Needs

To Assist Trafficking Survivors


Programs that assist human trafficking survivors must be victim-centered and grounded in trauma-informed care. This focus must be at the core of the organizational structure and treatment framework to ensure a holistic approach of care. Treating the medical, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of each person will increase a survivor’s ability to recognize how to respond to the various effects of trauma.


(1-12 Hours)

A drop-in center/clinic is a program or service where people who are being exploited can come to receive resources, emotional support, and assistance. These programs and facilities are located near locations where exploited children and adults can have easy access. These centers can be offered in permanent locations or in a mobile location. These centers would provide each victim:

  • Personal safety
  • Immediate medical and mental health needs
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • A support person
  • Other services as needed

Many human trafficking victims will leave or be rescued and then return to their trafficker multiple times. This center would act as a resource until the survivor is able to leave their exploiter. With each interaction, the victim moves closer to accept the center’s offer of assistance to freedom. Every clinic should have a healthy and thriving human trafficking survivor on site to counsel, guide, and mentor each victim; survivors have a much greater ability to connect and relate with the victim.


(1-21 Days)

A safe (or emergency) house is a secured location where no one is allowed access without permission. It is a safe place where law enforcement, case workers or approved prescreened organizations can bring a human trafficking survivor 24/7. Attention will be placed on the survivors’ immediate needs (i.e. safety, medical care, food, sleep) in addition to addressing impacting issues such as trauma bonding, addictions, and fear. The ultimate goal of a safe house is to prepare each survivor to be successful in a long-term residential program. Human trafficking victims will often run from a shelter within 24-48 hours, this is a common occurrence. Organizations should prepare for this type of behavior and have a plan to accommodate a victim’s return. Also, having healthy, thriving human trafficking survivors on-site to counsel, guide, and mentor each survivor increases the potential for success and adds tremendous value to the program.


(1-2 years or more)

A long-term residential program or facility helps survivors develop a vision for a new healthy, happy and independent life. Participants are given opportunities to discover their purpose and establish identity while being equipped and empowered to develop important life skills to succeed in their future. This program must be based on trust, accountability, and safety. Each survivor must have holistic care that involves their physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual health. While here, survivors can develop skills in areas like communication, financial management, nutrition and physical fitness. Survivors can also be provided assistance to obtain important personal documents. Every Residential Program should have a healthy and thriving human trafficking survivor on staff to help counsel, guide, and mentor each resident in their journey towards health and independence.


Once survivors have experienced a healthy level of healing from their trauma, transitional programs will assist the individual re-integrate into society and become self-sufficient. A crucial step in helping a survivor move towards independence is finding affordable housing and strong employment. As these basic needs are met, survivors can continue to develop the skill sets learned at their residential program, including:

  • Computer skills
  • Using public transportation
  • Pursuing cash aid programs
  • Applying and paying for college
  • Organizational skills
  • Job interview skills
  • Resume building
  • Banking

Follow up care is vital. Continued involvement in support groups and/or ongoing counseling should be offered. The ultimate goal of this program is to help create a tremendous sense of confidence and assurance in their pursuit and successful arrival at becoming fully independent.


Much of the ideas and information in these questions and answers were borrowed from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Polaris Project.

  • Is human trafficking the same thing as slavery?

    Many people refer to human trafficking as modern-day slavery. Although it is not the same as the transatlantic slave trade that flourished prior to the Civil War, there are many similarities in how victims are treated.

    Reference: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • What is the actual definition of human trafficking?

    The definition comes from the Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act (2000, 2003, 2005, 2008) which defines “severe forms of trafficking” as:

    • sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or
    • the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining 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.

    Note that a victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.

    The definition of trafficking consists of three core elements:

    1. The action of trafficking which means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons
    2. The means of trafficking which includes threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power or position of vulnerability
    3. The purpose of trafficking which is always exploitation. In the words of the Trafficking Protocol, article 3 "exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs

    Reference: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (3 Core Elements)

  • Who are the victims of human trafficking?

    Victims of human trafficking are frequently lured by false promises of a lucrative job, stability, education, or a loving relationship. Victims can be men or women, adults or children, foreign nationals or U.S. citizens. While they share the trait of vulnerability, victims have diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may be documented or undocumented.

    As defined under U.S. law, victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:

    1. Children under age 18 induced into commercial sex.
    2. Adults aged 18 or over induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion.
    3. Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion.

    While human trafficking spans all demographics, there are some circumstances or vulnerabilities that lead to a higher susceptibility to victimization and human trafficking. Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war or conflict, or social discrimination are frequently targeted by traffickers. Foreign nationals who have paid significant recruitment and travel fees often become highly indebted to traffickers or other intermediaries. Traffickers control and manipulate these individuals by leveraging the non-portability of many work visas as well as the victims’ lack of familiarity with surroundings, laws and rights, language fluency, and cultural understanding.

    Victims face many challenges in accessing help. Their traffickers may confiscate their identification documents and money. They may not speak English. They may not know where they are, because they have been moved frequently. They are often not allowed to communicate with family or friends. And they may have trouble trusting others, due to their traffickers’ manipulation and control tactics.

    Reference: Polaris Project

  • What types of jobs are trafficking victims forced to work?

    Commercial Sexual Exploitation

    • Prostitution (escort services, brothels, online, street walking)
    • Illicit Massage Parlors
    • Strip Clubs, Bars & Cantinas
    • Pornography

    Commercial Labor Exploitation

    • Domestic Workers (cooking, cleaning, childcare, etc.)
    • Illicit Activities (drug Sales, crimes)
    • Traveling Sales Crew
    • Restaurants and Food Service
    • Begging & Peddling
    • Health & Beauty Services (Nail Salons, Hair Salons, & Health Spas)
    • Agriculture
    • Construction
    • Hotels
    • Recreational Facilities (Amusement parks, summer camps, golf courses, community swimming pools)
    • Landscaping
    • Factories & Manufacturing
    • Carnivals
    • Forestry & Logging

    Reference: Polaris Project - Typology

  • How do Traffickers find people to exploit?

    Traffickers lure and ensnare people into forced labor and sex trafficking by manipulating and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Human traffickers recruit, transport, harbor, obtain, and exploit victims – often using force, threats, lies, or other psychological coercion. Traffickers promise a high-paying job, a loving relationship, or new and exciting opportunities. In other cases, they may kidnap victims or use physical violence or substance abuse to control them.

    Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, including physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, confiscation of identification and money, isolation from friends and family, and even renaming victims. Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for myriad reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their children’s safety.

    Often the traffickers and their victims share the same national, ethnic, or cultural background, allowing the trafficker to better understand and exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims.

    Traffickers can be lone individuals or extensive criminal networks. Pimps, gangs, family members, labor brokers, employers of domestic servants, small business owners, and large factory owners have all been found guilty of human trafficking. Their common thread is a willingness to exploit other human beings for profit.

    Reference: Polaris Project - Victims Traffickers

  • How Is Human Trafficking Different From Migrant Smuggling?


    Migrant smuggling, while often undertaken in dangerous or degrading conditions, involves consent. Trafficking victims, on the other hand, have either never consented or if they initially consented, that consent has been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive or abusive action of the traffickers.


    Migrant smuggling ends with the migrants' arrival at their destination, whereas trafficking involves the ongoing exploitation of the victim.

    Source of profits

    In smuggling cases profits are derived from the transportation of facilitation of the illegal entry or stay of a person in another country, while in trafficking cases profits are derived from exploitation.

    The distinctions between smuggling and trafficking are often very subtle and sometimes they overlap. Identifying whether a case is one of human trafficking or migrant smuggling and related crimes can be very difficult for a number of reasons:

    Some trafficked persons might start their journey by agreeing to be smuggled into a country illegally, but find themselves deceived, coerced or forced into an exploitative situation later in the process (by e.g. being forced to work for extraordinary low wages to pay for the transportation).

    Traffickers may present an 'opportunity' that sounds more like smuggling to potential victims. They could be asked to pay a fee in common with other people who are smuggled. However, the intention of the trafficker from the outset is the exploitation of the victim. The 'fee' was part of the fraud and deception and a way to make a bit more money.

    Smuggling may be the planned intention at the outset, but a 'too good to miss' opportunity to traffic people presents itself to the smugglers/traffickers at some point in the process.

    Criminals may both smuggle and traffic people, employing the same routes and methods of transporting them. The relationship between these two crimes is often oversimplified and misunderstood; both are allowed to prosper and opportunities to combat both are missed. It is important to understand that the work of migrant smugglers often results in benefit for human traffickers. Smuggled migrants may be victimized by traffickers and have no guarantee that those who smuggle them are not in fact traffickers. In short, smuggled migrants are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked - combating trafficking in persons requires that migrant smuggling be addressed as a priority.

    Reference: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

  • How do you identify a trafficking victim?

    Are you or someone you know being trafficked? Is human trafficking happening in your community? Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need. To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).

    Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question

    • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
    • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
    • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
    • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
    • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
    • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
    • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
    • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
    • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

    Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

    • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
    • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
    • Avoids eye contact

    Poor Physical Health

    • Lacks health care
    • Appears malnourished
    • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

    Lack of Control

    • Has few or no personal possessions
    • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
    • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
    • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)


    • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
    • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
    • Loss of sense of time
    • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

    This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. Learn more at

    Reference: Polaris Project - Recognize Signs

  • What should I do if I suspect a potential human trafficking situation?

    If there appears to be imminent or immediate danger, call 911. Even if your local law enforcement has not yet received training on human trafficking, they are trained to deal with emergencies. If it is not an emergency situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888. This is the national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call takers are trained to assess and properly refer case reports and hotline staff are multi-lingual.

    Reference: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • What happens to the trafficker when a victim is rescued?

    It depends. The trafficker can be prosecuted under federal or state anti-human trafficking statute, both of which treat human trafficking as a felony. Sometimes they are prosecuted under other related charges in addition to or instead of human trafficking. In some cases, the trafficker cannot be identified or located even though the victims are identified and provided services.

    Reference: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • What happens to the “Johns”?

    The buyers/users of prostituted adults and minors (sometimes known as johns) are sometimes arrested on charges of procuring, soliciting or engaging in prostitution, or related charges. National research demonstrates that individuals accused of providing commercial sexual activity are arrested at disproportionately higher rates than buyers.

    Promoting prostitution of a minor is a Class C felony. Patronizing a minor who is being prostituted is a Class F felony.

    If the act of prostitution involves adults, the john/buyer, and any third-party (e.g. a “pimp” or “madam”) are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The charge usually results in a fine and/or unsupervised probation. If the subject spends any time in jail prior to the court date, they’re usually sentenced to time served. The human trafficking charge, however, makes it much more serious for the pimp or madam as they would now be charged with the felony of human trafficking. There is not currently a felony charge for the Johns who engage in prostitution with a trafficked victim, unless that victim is a minor.

    Sex trafficking, regardless of whether the victim is a minor or an adult, is a felony.

    Reference: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • If a minor agrees to engage in commercial sexual activity, why is it crime and why is s/he considered a victim?

    The human trafficking statutes state that anyone under the age of 18 is legally a victim of sex trafficking. The law concludes that a minor is not capable of consenting to commercial sexual activity, so a minor engaged in commercial sexual activity is a victim of sex trafficking. Thus, the terms “child prostitute” or “juvenile prostitution” are inaccurate and should instead be replaced with “minor victim of sex trafficking” or Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC).

    Reference: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Doesn’t an undocumented immigrant deserve to be trafficked, since they’re already breaking the law?

    No. No one deserves to be forced, defrauded or coerced into providing labor or commercial sex of any kind. Victims are protected under the law whether they are documented or undocumented.

    Reference: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Statistics References

  1. Polaris (Forbes)
  2. National Human Trafficking Hotline
  3. Polaris
  4. Polaris Human Trafficking Hotline
  5. National Human Trafficking Hotline / Human Trafficking

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