Trafficking

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Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, provision, receipt, transportation and/or obtaining of individuals by using force or threats, coercion, fraud and/or using systems of indebtedness or debt bondage for purposes of economic exploitation that can include forced labor for domestic, industrial, agricultural or sex work; prostitution, pornography and sex tourism; removal and sale of organs; fraudulent adoptions; servitude, including servile marriages; and slavery.

Trafficking is fueled by demands for cheap, exploitable labor which have increased with globalization – which permits the free flow of capital but not labor. Some countries view trafficking as the only form of migration available to labor because all other sources are restricted or closed. They advocate safe migration as the way to halt trafficking. Complex ‘push-pull’ factors influence those who are trafficked, including economic factors such as paying off family debts, escaping poverty, remitting earnings, or escaping gender violence in the hopes of greater safety.

2016 Statistics on Trafficking

  • 7,572 trafficking cases were reported to trafficking hotlines operated by the Polaris Project.
  • Of these, 73% were sex trafficking cases, 14% were labor trafficking cases, 4% were sex & labor trafficking cases, and 9% were unspecified.
  • Of victims who were identified or described, 83% were female and 27% were minors (male or female).
  • Of victims whose race/ethnicity was known, the second largest group was Asian, at 23% (after Latino, at 33%).
    Polaris Project: 2016 Hotline Statistics 
“Survivors play a key role in elevating understanding and awareness of human trafficking, improving service delivery, and informing policy.”

Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the U.S. 2013-2017 (2014)

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking predominantly victimizes women and significant numbers of male and female children. It relies on the exploitation of female poverty and the impunity of male demands for commodified sex. Political positions about sex trafficking are cause for heated controversy because they are connected to positions that argue for abolishing, decriminalizing or legalizing prostitution. We recommend that advocates become informed about these positions when working with anti-trafficking programs.

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST)

DMST is defined as the commercial sexual abuse and exploitation of minors through buying, trading or selling their sexual services. A commercial sex act refers to anything of value – money, drugs, food, shelter, rent, higher status in a gang – exchanged for sex. Purposes include: street prostitution; escort services; internet-aided prostitution; performing in strip clubs, massage parlors, peep shows; and/or pornography where a minor is sold, rented, or provided something of value to perform sex acts on camera.

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)

CSEC refers to a range of crimes including:

  • Recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, and/or maintaining a minor for the purpose of sexual exploitation,
  • Exploiting a minor through prostitution,
  • Exploiting a minor through survival sex,
  • Using a minor in pornography,
  • Exploiting a minor through sex tourism, mail order bride trade, early marriage, and
  • Exploiting a minor by having her/him perform in sexual venues.

Resources on Trafficking

Considerations and Recommendations on Trauma-Informed Advocacy for Trafficking Survivors, 2017

This TA Brief addresses the complexity of advocacy for adult and minor survivors of trafficking. Topics include: Definitions, Analysis/Root Causes, Trauma-Informed Advocacy, Endangerment & Confidentiality, and Considerations & Recommendations at Points of Contact — raids, arrest, custody and release, legal processes, shelters, and health and mental health systems.

Webinars on Survivor-Centered, Trauma-Informed Advocacy for Trafficking Survivors

a. Advocacy & Services for Trafficking Survivors, 2014: A comprehensive overview of sex and labor trafficking – actions/means/purposes, data, root causes, traumas and oppressions, help-seeking, legal remedies, cross-systems trauma-informed collaboration.

b. Supporting Domestic Trafficking Survivors, 2015: Two national experts, Tina Frundt and Elisabeth Corey, lay the foundations for understanding domestic minor sex trafficking, followed by the traumatic impacts of victimization and operationalizing trauma-informed responses within new and existing advocacy structures and partnerships.

c. The Culture of Family-Controlled Trafficking, 2016: Elisabeth Corey reaches into her story to teach us about the traffickers, the enablers, and the family on the outside and inside that operate family-controlled trafficking; and how survivors can be helped.

For Help, Contact

National Human Trafficking Hotline
Call 1-888-373-7888 or text “BeFree” (233733)

Shared Hope International: works to prevent sex trafficking and restore and bring justice to women and children who have been victimized through sex trafficking
1-866-437-5433

Courtney’s House: brings minor survivors into a safe environment to recover and heal, and offers training and consultation.
1-202-423-0480 (Hotline/Referrals)

Other Resources

Trafficking Resources for Advocates (2017) offers 60+ listings on governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and coalitions, DMST/CSEC resources, health care response, interpretation for victims, legal resources, and research.

Beating Trauma: Elisabeth Corey, a survivor of family-controlled sex trafficking, shares her experiences and path to recovery as part of her mission to empower survivors and build awareness.

Freedom Network USA: a coalition of experts and advocates who provide training to social services, law enforcement and attorneys; and advocate for comprehensive services and effective prevention efforts in legislation and federal governmental policies. Find a network organization by state.

Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP): National Human Trafficking and Technical Assistance Center: delivers training and technical assistance to inform and enhance the public health response to human trafficking.

Polaris Project: combats trafficking by disrupting networks.

U.S. Department of State: Annual Trafficking in Persons Report

VAWnet: Special Collection on Human Trafficking (2014)

Walking Prey: How America’s Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery (2014) Holly Austin Smith’s book describes risk factor and predation; how traffickers and buyers operate; aftercare for CSEC survivors; tips for teens, parents, counselors, teachers; and resources for mental health professionals, law enforcement and other first responders.