What Is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is when an individual makes a profit from the control and exploitation of another person through force, fraud or coercion. Simply put, human trafficking is modern slavery. While it is difficult to assess the true extent of human trafficking due to the covert nature of the activity, the International Labor Organization estimates 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, 55% of whom are women. Human trafficking is the 2nd largest criminal industry worldwide, generating an estimate $150 billion worldwide. Human Trafficking is general divided into two categories; labor trafficking and sex trafficking.
Human Trafficking in the United States
Most of us are aware this exists in the poorest regions of the world, but the prevalence of human trafficking here in the United States - in all of our communities – is truly shocking. While there is no official estimate of the total number of trafficking victims in the United States, it is clear the annual number of victims reaches into the hundreds of thousands. Under U.S. law, victims of human trafficking are divided into three categories:
- Children under age 18 induced into commercial sex;
- Adults aged 18 or over induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion; and
- Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion.
While both labor and sex trafficking occur in the United States, 82% of reported human trafficking incidents in the United States between January 2008 and June 2010 involved allegations of sex trafficking. ACAHT’s focus is on sex trafficking, however you can learn more about labor trafficking through Polaris and the International Labour Organization.
Sex Trafficking in the United States
The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines the crime of human trafficking as:
- The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age, or
- 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.”
Domestic minor sex trafficking occurs when U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident minors (under the age of 18) are commercially sexually exploited. Children can be commercially sexually exploited through prostitution, pornography, and/or erotic entertainment.
The commercial aspect of the sexual exploitation is critical to separating the crime of trafficking from sexual assault, molestation or rape. The term “commercial sex act” is defined by the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act as the giving or receiving of anything of value (money, drugs, shelter, food, clothes, etc.) to any person in exchange for a sex act.
The age of the victim is the critical issue — there is no requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion was used to secure a minor victim’s actions. The law recognizes the effect of psychological manipulation by the trafficker, as well as the effect of threat of harm which traffickers/pimps use to maintain control over their young victims.
Victims of sex trafficking are forced to engage in commercial sex against their will through forms of coercion, such as physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, threats and isolation. Under federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion. While victims are diverse in terms of ethnicity, socio-economic status, education, gender and citizenship status, most victims share the trait of vulnerability. Populations with a higher susceptibility of being trafficked include victims of domestic violence and runaway and homeless youth. The average age for entrance into street prostitution is 12-14 years old for a girl and 11-13 for a boy. Children as young as 5 years old are being controlled by a pimp.
Once drawn into commercial sex, prostituted persons are at high risk for many kinds of additional trauma. One study found that the mortality rates of prostituted women to be 200 times greater than those found among other women with similar demographic profiles, making commercial sex the single most dangerous “occupation."