Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the recruitment, harboring or transporting people into exploitation through the use of force, violence, deception, fraud or coercion. The different forms of exploitation include and is not limited to: forced prostitution, forced labor, forced begging, forced criminality, domestic servitude, illegal adoptions and forced organ removal.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion industry. It is one of the fastest-growing international crimes behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking.
- Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90 a day
- 85% of confirmed sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens, mostly runaway children
The ILO also estimates in their 2016 Global Report of Modern Slavery, that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, primarily being forced to work against their will (including sexual exploitation) or being forced into a marriage.
- 24.9 million or 62% of these were forced into labor
- 15.4 million 38% were living in a forced marriage
- 71% of all victims are women and girls
- One in four victims were children
- Modern slavery occurs in every region of the world
According to the 2018 UN Global Report on Trafficking in Persons:
- Globally countries are detecting and reporting more victims, and are convicting more traffickers
- Vast majority of the detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation are females, and 35 per cent of the victims trafficked for forced labor are also females, both women and girls
- Trafficking for sexual exploitation continues to be the most detected form
- Armed conflicts can drive vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons
In the United States, legislation has broadened the definition of Human Trafficking. For example, A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another for the crime to fall within the definition of being a victim of Human Trafficking.
The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, as amended (TVPA), defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as:
- sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age;
- the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
POLARIS, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery, operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) in the U.S. and abroad, connecting victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking with services and supports to get help and stay safe. Key findings in the U.S. include:
- Since 2007 more than 40,000 cases were identified on these helplines
- In 2017 the hotline received 26,884 phone calls, 2,306 texts, 3,154 web forms and 1,833 emails (victims, reports on traffickers, businesses utilizing forced labor etc.)
- 10,615 of these contacts were made by individual victims
- The highest reported forms of exploitation were cases involving escort services (1,572), illicit massage businesses (774) and domestic work (242)
- Of the 10,615 individual victims 58% were adults, 25% minors (rest unknown), and 81% females
- 12% of these cases were identified as Latino, 6% white, 5% African/African-American, 2% Asian, and 1% multi-racial
In 2018 NHTH in New Jersey received 433 contacts of which 224 were identified as cases of human trafficking. Key findings include:
- 79% involved sex trafficking and 11% labor trafficking
- 68% of the victims were female, 37% minors and 36% adults (rest unkown)
- 189 calls were received in 2018 and 98 cases of human trafficking were reported
- 90% of the victims were female
- 50% of the victims were adults; over 40% of the victims were minors
- The top two types of trafficking were for sex and labor
- Top callers were from community members, victims of trafficking and NGO representatives
“The root causes of trafficking are numerous, interconnected and often complex. Some root causes of trafficking, such as poverty and a lack of legal avenues for migration, overlap with the drivers of irregular migration and smuggling of migrants. Other root causes are tied to individuals’ particular characteristics and circumstances.
The diversity and complexity of root causes means that it is not possible to enumerate and explain them comprehensively in this Module. Rather, this section sets out and briefly describes seven common causes, including:
- Restrictive immigration and labour laws.
- Armed conflict, political oppression, lack of rule of law and natural disasters.
- Harmful social and cultural practices.
- Consumer demand and buying habits.”
(Source: UNODC, E4J University Module Series: Trafficking in Persons / Smuggling of Migrants, Module 7)
Further findings of the primary risk factors include recent migration/relocation, substance abuse, runaway/homeless youth, mental health issues and involvement in the child welfare system.
While there isn’t a clear target group for human trafficking, certain populations are affected more than others based on the obstacles they face:
- Homeless minors
- Foreign nationals who might face legal actions or travel restrictions
- Individuals with histories of trauma and abuse appear to be more at risk for human trafficking
- Physical and cognitive disabilities can increase the risk to become a victim of trafficking
A study by the Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research investigated 1,416 arrests in the United States of the specific charge of sex traffickers of minors from 2010 to 2015 and found that:
- Three-quarters of the cases involved only minor victims.
- The minor victims were transported to up to 17 states for the purpose of being prostituted with the average of 2.7 states.
- Recruitment tactics focused on runaways; friendship, romance, giving a place to stay to the victim, and promises of money and wealth.
- During recruitment, 15.7% provided their minor victims with drugs and/or alcohol.
- To condition the victims during recruitment, 18% of the sex traffickers sexually assaulted and 19.8% physically assaulted their minor victims.
- 941 victims were identified from the 1,416 cases: female (98.9%) with only nine male and one transgender victim.
- The victim’s age at exploitation ranged from age 4 to 17 with an average age of 15 years old.
- The average age of the victim when their sex trafficker was arrested was 15.5 years old.
- According to POLARIS, the three most common types of trafficking are:
- sex trafficking, including escort services, residential and outdoor solicitation
- sex and labor, including illicit massage businesses and bar/strip-clubs
- labor trafficking, including domestic work, agriculture as well as begging/peddling
- Recruitment tactics of traffickers include various strategies to proactively target victim vulnerabilities and grooming behaviors including false promises/fraud, job offers, posing as benefactor and/or family member/intimate partner
- Methods of coercion include threat of force or actual force including economic abuse, isolation/confinement, smuggling, physical restraint, physical harm, sexual assault, and beatings. Monitoring and confinement is often used to control victims, especially during early stages of victimization to break down the victim’s resistance. Victims’ families are often identified as collateral to control the victim.
Please view the video, Very Young Girls. This is the story of a group of girls in New York City who were prostituted as early as the age of 12. They have found safe haven at GEMS, where they receive love and guidance as they try to heal and find a new direction in their young lives.