Understanding Human Trafficking

What is Human Trafficking?

human-trafficking-barcodeHuman trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include: 1) children induced into commercial sex, 2) adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and 3) anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services” of involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery.
The factors that each of these situations have in common are elements of force, fraud
or coercion that are used to control people. All victims share the loss of one of the world’s more cherished rights — FREEDOM. Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people around the world and the U.S. (an estimated 20.9 million people in 2013), in a criminal industry that is rapidly growing. 
In 2012, slave traders made an estimated $32 BILLION. That’s more than Nike, Google and Starbucks combined.

What is the Extent of Human Trafficking in the US?

Contrary to a common assumption, human trafficking is not just a problem in other countries. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and some U.S. territories. There is no one consistent face of a trafficking victim in the United States. Trafficked persons can be rich or poor, men or women, adults or children, and U.S. citizens or foreign nationals. Foreign born victims in the U.S. may be either documented or undocumented.

Because human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries, the U.S. government and academic researchers are currently working on an up-to-date estimate of the total number of trafficked persons in the United States annually. With 100,000 children estimated to be in the sex trade in the United States each year, it is clear that the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are combined.


Sex Trafficking in the US

children_traffic_statsTrafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. Child sex trafficking includes any child involved in commercial sex. Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry. Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand. Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues of the overall sex industry, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution.
Pimps often recruit children into sex-trafficking by posing as a boyfriend, caretaker and protector. Many girls are runaways from abusive or dysfunctional homes, some are kidnapped and others are exploited by someone they know. The children at risk are not just high school students—pimps or traffickers are known to prey on victims as young as 9. Traffickers may target minor victims through social media websites, telephone chat-lines, after-school programs, at shopping malls and bus depots, in clubs, or through friends or acquaintances who recruit students on school campuses. 

Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for minors, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and possible death.


Child Sex Trafficking Statistics


* As many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the US. Three out of four runaways will be approached by a pimp or a sexual predator and this recruitment takes place in the first 72 hours after a child runs away.The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
* The average age of entry for children victimized by the sex trade industry is 12 years. U.S. Department of Justice
* Approximately 80% of human trafficking victims are women and girls and up to 50% are minors. U.S. State Department
* 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for commercial sexual exploitation. U.S. Department of Justice

* 600,000 – 800,000 people are bought and sold across international borders each year; 50% are children, most are female. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. U.S. Department of State, 2004, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, D.C.

* An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year. U.S. Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons

* One study estimates 30% of shelter youth and 70% of street youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. They may engage or be coerced into prostitution for “survival sex” to meet daily needs for food, shelter, or drugs. American Journal of Public Health
* The average number of victims for non-incestuous pedophiles who molest girls is 20, for pedophiles who prefer boys 100! The Association For the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)

* An average serial child molester may have as many as 400 victims in his lifetime. Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Study

* Child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States right now. Nationally, there has been a 2500% increase in arrests in 10 years. FBI
* Reports of exploited children grow every year, in 2009, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children received more than 120,000 reports on its cyber tip line. In 2010, the number grew to over 160,000 with the vast majority being from child pornography.
This page is intended to give you an overview of human trafficking. To combat the problem, we first have to recognize and understand it. Join us in our efforts to continue to build our intervention and prevention program that reaches young people most at risk from falling into the sex trade, before they become just another statistic!
For more information and resources on human and sex trafficking, and missing children, please visit the RESOURCES page. This page contains a variety of materials including Trafficking Victim Identification, Fact Sheets for education and family support, videos and links to related websites. 
If you believe you are the victim of trafficking or have information about

potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) or text BeFree (233733). Specialists are available 24/7. 
For local support with missing and endangered children,
Do you have a tip concerning human trafficking in the Portland area?
 Email tips to:
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