What is Human Trafficking?

Photo of young girlPeople often ask “What is human trafficking?”  Most believe it is transporting someone from point A to point B.  While it can include a literal physical movement from city to city, that is only a small part of the current definition of human trafficking.  The use of force, fraud, and coercion as defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) by the United States Government explains that human trafficking is a serious federal crime with penalties of up to imprisonment for life.

Federal law defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as: “(a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex 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 (b) 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.” [U.S.C. §7102(8)]   In addition, those who recruit minors into commercial sexual exploitation (or prostitution) violate federal anti-trafficking laws, even if there is no force, fraud, or coercion.  In short, human trafficking is a form of modern slavery.

What is the Extent of Human Trafficking in the United States?

An unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country for sexual servitude and forced labor.  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 the U.S. territories.  Victims of human trafficking can be children or adults, U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, male or female.

How Does Human Trafficking Affect our Schools?

Trafficking can involve school-age youth, particularly those made vulnerable by challenging family situations, and can take a variety of forms including forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation.

The children at risk are not just high school students—pimps or traffickers are known to prey on victims as young as nine.  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.

How Do I Report a Suspected Incidence of Human Trafficking?

  • In the case of an immediate emergency, call your local police department or emergency access number (911).
  • Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888.

Adapted from:  “Human Trafficking of Children in the United States-A Fact Sheet for Schools.” Human Trafficking of Children in the United States-A Fact Sheet for Schools. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2013.

Some Statistics on Human Trafficking

As many as 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation each year in the United States. 1

In 2010, an estimated 12.3 million adults and children were in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world; 56 percent of these victims were women and girls. 1

In 2001, 49% of confirmed child sexual abuse URLs were hosted in North America. 2

The average price tag for an underage girl sold on the streets is $400 per hour. 3

Children are sold an estimated 10 to 15 times a day. 3

One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18. 4

The average age of entry into pornography and prostitution in the U.S. is 12. 5

The life expectancy of the commercially exploited “prostitute” is 7 years. 5

Of the approximately 800,000 children reported missing to law enforcement each year in the United States, approximately 350,000 of them are runaways. 5

60 percent of those forced into prostitution are runaways. 5

Approximately one in seven youth online (10 to 17 years-old) received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet. 6

Human Trafficking and exploitation is the fastest growing and second largest criminal enterprise in the world, generating an estimated $34 billion a year worldwide. 7


1 US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE – OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/factsheets/ojpfs_humantrafficking.html)

2 INTERNATIONAL WATCH FOUNDATION (http://www.iwf.org.uk/resources/trends)

3 Shared Hope International and the Washington Attorney General’s Office (http://www.sharedhope.org/Portals/0/Documents/2011_NewWashingtonlaw.pdf)

4 NATIONAL CENTER ON DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE (http://www.ncdsv.org/images/sexualassaultstatistics.pdf) Finkelhor, David, et al. “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics and Risk Factors,” Child Abuse and Neglect, 1990.

5 U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/01-2011/FromTheField.asp)

6 NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN (http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=2815)
[David Finkelhor, Kimberly J. Mitchell, and Janis Wolak. Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later. Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2006, pages 7-8, 33.]

7 International Labor Organization – April 2002, Pg. 6 (http://www.ilo.org/ipecinfo/product/viewProduct.do?productId=742)

NOTE** Since we created this STAT Sheet, in 2013 the ILO has reported that sex trafficking has been reduced by 19% however Labor Trafficking has increased 43%.Additionally, there are now 20.9 million as opposed to the most often quoted stat of 27 million slaves world-wide. Also, a new stat by the International Labor Organization.