Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation of another person. The victim is forced to engage in a commercial sex act through the use of fraud, coercion, violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, and/or other forms of control and manipulation.
- Most individuals trapped in sex trafficking are trafficked by someone they know and trust, often even a family member.
- In 2016, the International Labor Organization estimated that there were 4.8 million individuals trapped in sex trafficking.
- The sex trafficking industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Each year, the United States Department of State publishes a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report which includes a ranking of governments on their efforts to combat human trafficking. You can read past TIP reports here.
2020 TIP Report
Click to download
2018 North America Profile
Click to download
2019 TIP Report
Click to download
SIGNS OF SEX TRAFFICKING
Part of what makes the fight against human trafficking so difficult is the fact that it is a hidden crime. In order to put an end to trafficking, we must learn the signs.
While there are many varying signs that are dependent on the type of sex trafficking and the individuals involved, the following are some general signs that an individual may be a victim of sex trafficking.
The individual may…
- Be fearful of police and authorities.
- Have no passport or ID or mention that someone else is holding their documents.
- Exhibit signs of physical and/or psychological trauma (anxiety, lack of memory of recent events, bruising, untreated conditions, etc).
- Be fearful of the trafficker, believing that their life and/or the lives of family members are at risk if they try to escape.
- Avoid eye contact and/or social interaction.
- Be unpaid or paid very little.
- Have very few possessions.
- Have limited access to medical care.
- Be unaware of where they are or how they got there.
- Have limited freedom of movement.
- Be seen checking into hotels/motels often with a significantly older individual or by themselves.
- Have tattoos/brandings on their neck and/or lower back.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Call or Text if you See Something
Educating ourselves and others is the easiest way to fight sex trafficking. The more people who know the signs, the more likely sex trafficking is to be reported. In addition to calling the toll-free National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1.888.373.7888, you can also report suspected trafficking by texting “BeFree” to 233733. Saving these numbers in your phone could help you be prepared when you see suspicious activity.
Some professions are more likely to come in contact with sex trafficking victims. Many of these industries have established programs to properly train employees. These include Truckers Against Trafficking, the Association of Flight Attendants, and HEAL Trafficking. Your industry may have training tools available to you!
If you are a frequent traveler (or not), download the TraffickCam app. Using this app, you simply take photos of your hotel room. The photos are submitted to a database and cross-checked with photos taken of victims. This helps law enforcement to determine where perpetrators are trafficking their victims.
Human trafficking is its own industry with its own vocabulary. The following are some terms you may hear when discussing sex trafficking.
- Branding: A tattoo or carving on a victim that indicates ownership by a trafficker, pimp, or gang.
- Brothel/Cathouse/Whorehouse: Establishments where sex is sold on the premise. This could be apartments, homes, trailers, etc.
- Choosing Up: The process by which a different pimp takes “ownership” of a victim. According to traditional pimping rules, when a victim makes eye contact with another pimp (accidentally or on purpose), she is choosing him to be her pimp. If the original pimp wants the victim back, he must pay a fee to the new pimp. When this occurs, the victim is forced to work harder to replace the money lost.
- Circuit: A series of cities among which prostituted people are moved.
- Coercion: Threats of serious harm or physical restraint. Any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person. The abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.
- Commercial Sex Act: Any sexual act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.
- Daddy: The term a pimp will often require his victim(s) to call him.
- Date: The exchange when prostitution takes place. A victim is said to be “with a date” or “dating.”
- Debt Bondage: The status or condition of a debtor arising from a pledge by the debtor of his or her personal services or of those under his or her control as a security for debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt of the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined.
- Domestic Trafficking: Refers to the trafficking of US citizens within the United States. Most often seen in the sex trafficking of persons by a pimp.
- Escort Service: An organization, operating chiefly via cell phone and the internet, which send a victim to a buyer’s location (an “outcall”) or arranges for the buyer to come to a house or apartment (an “in-call”). Some network with others and can assemble large numbers of women for parties.
- Exit Fee: The money a pimp will demand from a victim who is trying to leave. It will be an exorbitant sum as most pimps do not let their victims leave freely.
- Human Trafficking: The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving and receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation.
- Madam: An older woman who manages a brothel, escort service or other prostitution establishment. She may work alone or in collaboration with other traffickers.
- Pimp: A person who controls and financially benefits from the commercial sexual exploitation of another person. Often abusive and possessive, with the pimp using techniques such as psychological intimidation, manipulation, starvation, rape and/or gang rape, beating, confinement, threats of violence toward the victim’s family, forced drug use, and the shame from these acts to keep the victim under control.
- Quota: A set amount of money that a trafficking victim must make each night before she can come “home.” Quotas are often set between $300 and $2000. If the victim returns without meeting the quota, she is typically beaten and sent back out on the street to earn the rest. Quotas vary according to geographic region, local events, etc.
- Renegade: A person who is involved in prostitution without a pimp.
- Seasoning: A combination of psychological manipulation, intimidation, gang rape, sodomy, beatings, deprivation of food or sleep, isolation from friends or family and other sources of support, and threatening or holding hostage of a victim’s children. Seasoning is designed to break down a victim’s resistance and ensure compliance.
- Sex Tourism: Trips organized with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination.
- Track/Stroll/Blade: An area of town known for prostitution activity.
- Trade Up/Trade Down: To move a victim like merchandise between pimps. A pimp may trade a girl for another or trade with an exchange of money.
- Trick: Committing an act of prostitution (verb) or the person buying it (noun). A victim is said to be “turning a trick” or “with a trick.”
- Turn Out: To be forced into prostitution.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has provided a human trafficking legislation tracker to stay up to date on legal issues surrounding the topic.
The Protected Innocence Challenge gives states a grade based on the strength of their laws related to commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The United Nations Human Rights Council's Report on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children identifies key challenges related to long-term social inclusion for trafficking survivors.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released an issue aper on the concept of "exploitation" in the trafficking in persons.
The Department of Homeland Security has released their report, Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation.
Caring for Trafficked Persons: Guidance for Health Providers gives practical, non-clinical advice to help a concerned health provider understand the phenomenon of human trafficking.
The Vatican's Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking provides an understanding that motivates and sustains the much-needed long-term struggle against trafficking.
Human Rights Watch reports human rights trends from around the globe.
We put together some suggested talking points when talking to groups about human trafficking.
Ending Human Trafficking has a podcast discussing various topics regarding human trafficking.
The new issue of Anti-Trafficking Review explores assumptions around the technological tools currently available that purport to address trafficking and exploitation.
The Human Trafficking Institute recently released the Federal Human Trafficking Report.
Want to plan an End Human Trafficking event? Unicef has put together a toolkit.
Polaris has released their 2019 Annual Report.
- Blue Heart Campaign
- Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking
- ECPAT (Report: Unpacking Human Trafficking)
- End Slavery Now
- Free the Slaves
- The National Center on Sexual Exploitation
- Shared Hope International
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- USCSAHT - US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking
- World Without Exploitation