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.
Statistics on Trafficking
- 8,759 human trafficking cases affecting 10,615 individual victims were reported to hotlines operated by the Polaris Project in 2017.
- Of these, 71% were sex trafficking cases, 15% were labor trafficking cases, 4% were sex & labor trafficking cases, and 10% were unspecified.
- Of the 8,966 survivors of known age, 69% were adults and 31% were minors.
- Of the 10,074 survivors of known gender, 85% were female, 14% were male, and 0.6% were gender minorities.
- Of the 3,636 survivors whose race/ethnicity was known the second largest group was Asian, at 27% (after Latino, at 34%).
Polaris Project: 2017 Hotline Statistics
- One in six of 18,500 runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2016 were likely victims of minor sex trafficking.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: Child Sex Trafficking
“Survivors play a key role in elevating understanding and awareness of human trafficking, improving service delivery, and informing policy.”
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
Building from what trafficking survivors have taught us, this webinar discusses how to identify survivors, how past experience of help-seeking can influence current attempts, and the importance of trauma-informed care at different points of contact with survivors such as raids, arrest, and at shelters.
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.
Intersections of Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Assault: National Organizational Advocacy Roundtable, 2016
Advocates representing Native programs, domestic and sexual assault state coalitions, and direct service agencies examine the scope of the problem, resources, needs, challenges, strategies, and principles to build and sustain coordinated systems of service provision and survivor-centered advocacy.
A brief compilation of governmental agencies, NGOs, and resources about DMST/CSEC, healthcare, interpretation, legal services, and research.
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)
Help is available 24/7 in English and Spanish
Shared Hope International: works to prevent sex trafficking and restore and bring justice to women and children who have been victimized through sex trafficking
Courtney’s House: brings minor survivors into a safe environment to recover and heal, and offers training and consultation.
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.
The Human Trafficking Legal Center: Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence Fact Sheet (2018)
The Life Story: Moments of Change: a multimedia project elevating the voices and experiences of sex trafficking survivors and meant to inform the work of those who work at the intersections of education, housing, public health, mental health and addiction services, economic and racial justice, and other areas.
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.
- Typology of Modern Slavery (2017) catalogs 25 types of trafficking
- 2017 Statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline
U.S. Department of State: Annual Trafficking in Persons Report
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.