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In 2020, 42% of trafficking victims were brought into trafficking by a member of their own families.

National Human Trafficking Hotline

P hone: 1-888-373-7888
Text: “BeFree” (233733)
Online Chat:
TTY: 711

Types of Trafficking

Trafficking, according to the United Nations, involves three main elements:

  • The act: Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons.
  • The means: Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim.
  • The purpose: For the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime in which a person is forced or coerced to perform labor or to engage in commercial sex acts. The United Nations defines human trafficking this way: “Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.”

There are two major categories of human trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

What is sex trafficking?

Sex trafficking is the type of human trafficking that has often had the most public awareness in the U.S. Polaris defines sex trafficking as “the crime of using force, fraud or coercion to induce another individual to sell sex.”

If a victim is under the age of 18, any act of commercial sex is considered to be human trafficking, regardless of the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Contrary to popular belief, trafficking is not always perpetrated by a stranger. In fact, most often (especially in the case of children), individuals are trafficked by someone they know. This could include family or romantic partners.

People trafficked into sex work are forced to work in escort services, pornography, illicit massage parlors, brothels, and solicitation. Sex trafficking can also include online exploitation and forced marriage.

What is cybersex trafficking?

Cybersex trafficking is a crime in which someone is forced to perform sexual acts. Those acts are either live-streamed or recorded in photo or video form and made available on the internet for paying customers around the world. This type of trafficking is dramatically on the rise, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Exodus Road’s field operatives have seen a rise in the number of human trafficking cases involving online recruitment and advertising, such as this case of a 17-year-old boy. The crime is particularly rampant in the Philippines, where The Exodus Road is beginning Search + Rescue operations to bring freedom to those being exploited both on and offline.

What is labor trafficking?

Labor trafficking is another type of human trafficking. According to Polaris, “Labor trafficking is the crime of using force, fraud or coercion to induce another individual to work or provide service.”

Labor trafficking can take the form of debt bondage, forced labor, and child labor. This crime frequently occurs in industries like agriculture, domestic work, restaurants, cleaning services, and carnivals.

Recognizing The Signs

Who is Most Vulnerable?

Anyone can experience trafficking in any community, just as anyone can be the victim of any kind of crime. While it can happen to anyone, evidence suggests that people of color and LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience trafficking than other demographic groups. Generational trauma, historic oppression, discrimination, and other societal factors and inequities create community-wide vulnerabilities. Traffickers recognize and take advantage of people who are vulnerable.

People may be vulnerable to trafficking if they:

  • Have an unstable living situation
  • Have previously experienced other forms of violence such as sexual abuse or domestic violence
  • Have run away or are involved in the juvenile justice or child welfare system
  • Are undocumented immigrants
  • Are facing poverty or economic need
  • Have a caregiver or family member who has a substance use issue
  • Are addicted to drugs or alcohol

Who Are the Traffickers?

There is no evidence that traffickers are more likely to be of a particular race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. They may be family members, romantic partners, acquaintances, or strangers.

How Traffickers Lure People In?

Stories become weapons in the hands of human traffickers — tales of romantic love everlasting or about good jobs and fair wages just over the horizon. Sometimes, the stories themselves raise red flags. Other times, traffickers or potential traffickers may raise red flags during recruitment.

Recognizing Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking occurs when individuals are made to perform commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Any child under 18 who is involved in commercial sex is legally a victim of trafficking, regardless of whether there is a third party involved.

Someone may be experiencing sex trafficking if they:

    • Want to stop participating in commercial sex but feel scared or unable to leave the situation.
    • Disclose that they were reluctant to engage in commercial sex but that someone pressured them into it.
    • Live where they work or are transported by guards between home and workplace.
    • Are children who live with or are dependent on a family member with a substance use problem or who is abusive.
    • Have a “pimp” or “manager” in the commercial sex industry.
    • Work in an industry where it may be common to be pressured into performing sex acts for money, such as a strip club, illicit cantina, go-go bar, or illicit massage business.
    • Have a controlling parent, guardian, romantic partner, or “sponsor” who will not allow them to meet or speak with anyone alone or who monitors their movements, spending, or communications.


Facts & Myths

MYTH: Traffickers target victims they don’t know

FACT: A majority of the time, victims are trafficked by someone they know, such as a friend, family member or romantic partner.

MYTH: Only girls and women are victims of human trafficking

FACT: Boys and men are just as likely to be victims of human trafficking as girls and women. However, they are less likely to be identified and reported. Girls and boys are often subject to different types of trafficking, for instance, girls may be trafficked for forced marriage and sexual exploitation, while boys may be trafficked for forced labor or recruitment into armed groups.

MYTH: All human trafficking involves sex or prostitution

FACT: Human trafficking can include forced labor, domestic servitude, organ trafficking, debt bondage, recruitment of children as child soldiers, and/or sex trafficking and forced prostitution.

MYTH: Trafficking involves traveling, transporting or moving a person across borders

FACT: Human trafficking is not the same thing as smuggling, which are two terms that are commonly confused. Trafficking does not require movement across borders. In fact, in some cases, a child could be trafficked and exploited from their own home. In the U.S., trafficking most frequently occurs at hotels, motels, truck stops and online.

MYTH: People being trafficked are physically unable to leave or held against their will

FACT: Trafficking can involve force, but people can also be trafficked through threats, coercion, or deception. People in trafficking situations  can be controlled through drug addiction, violent relationships, manipulation, lack of financial independence, or  isolation from family or friends, in addition to physical restraint or harm.

MYTH: Trafficking primarily occurs in developing countries

FACT: Trafficking occurs all over the world, though the most common forms of trafficking can differ by country.  The United States is one of the most active sex trafficking countries in the world, where exploitation of trafficking victims occurs in cities, suburban and rural areas. Labor trafficking occurs in the U.S., but at lower rates than most developing countries.

If you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-800-373-7888. The confidential hotline is open 24 hours a day, every day, and helps identify, protect and serve victims of trafficking.

If you have an emergency situation, please call 911. If there is any information that is not listed or you need help with resources, please call or email us as or (725) 696-7230. We will put you in touch with the right people to help you and your daughter.

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