When most people think about human trafficking, they often think about it as a problem that does not happen in the United States. The reality is, human trafficking is a national and international crime that occurs frequently within the United States. Traffickers rely and depend on our lack of awareness to continue their abuse. Here are some things you may not know about human trafficking:
Human trafficking can take different forms, the most common of which are sex trafficking and labor trafficking.
Human trafficking overall refers to the use of force, fraud, or coercion to control a person and exploit them for labor or sex. More specifically, labor trafficking refers to a form of modern-day slavery where victims may be forced to work (ex. as domestic servants, farm workers, or factory workers) in inhumane conditions with little to no pay. Comparatively, sex trafficking more specifically refers to when an indvidual engages in a commercial sex act (ex. prostitution/sex work, pornography, trading sexual acts for food or shelter) without the individual’s consent or autonomy. Force, fraud or coercion need not be present if the individual is under 18 years of age.
Traffickers use many of the same tactics that domestic abusers use to control their victims.
According to data collected by the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the most common methods traffickers use to control their victims are isolation (including confinement), psychological abuse, economic/financial abuse, threats, and physical and sexual abuse. These methods are similar to those used by domestic abusers. These tactics keep victims vulnerable, dependent, and fearful of abusers, and stop them from reporting the abuse and seeking help.
Human trafficking is an epidemic, yet many cases go unreported.
Between 2007 and 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 40,987 situations of human trafficking in the United States. The International Labour Organization estimates that in 2016 there were 40 million victims of “modern slavery” worldwide per day. It is unknown how many of those occur within the U.S. But, it is clear that the vast majority of human trafficking occurs without the public knowing.
Recent immigrants, victims of abuse or social discrimination, and runaway/homeless youth are the most common targets of human traffickers.
Traffickers lure and control their victims by targeting their vulnerabilities and exploiting them. Trafficking spans all economic and social demographics. However, victims of domestic or sexual abuse, immigrants, the homeless, LGBTQ+ youth, are the most targeted. Traffickers may exploit their vulnerabilities to control them in a number of ways, including confiscating identification documents or passports, restriction or isolation from friends and family, using a victim’s lack of language fluency or knowledge of their rights against them, controlling a victim’s money and holding them in debt, and more.
The most common points of access to potential help are interaction with family and friends, law enforcement, health services, and mobile apps or social media.
Traffickers control and exploit their victims so it is difficult to report the abuse or reach help without assistance. As a result, the most common points of access to help victims may involve interactions with outsiders and the public. They may be identified after a prostitution arrest, in medical settings, after family and friends intervene, or via social media. Due to negative experiences, unresolved trauma and distrust with law enforcement, medical providers, victims/survivors often don’t seek these services.
- Safe Connections 24-hour Crisis Helpline
- National Human Trafficking Hotline
- 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” to 233733