Sex Trafficking

"Remember this who are in prison as if you were in prison with them.  Remember those who are suffering as if you were suffering with them"

-Hebrews 13:3

A definition:

     According to the TraffickingVictims Protection Act, sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person  for the purpose of a commercial sex act where the act is induced by force, fraud, coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not reached 18 years of age. 

     Domestic minor sex trafficking occurs when U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident minors (under the age of 18) are commercially sexually exploited through prostitution, pornography, and/or erotic entertainment. 

   In the U.S., sex trafficking occurs through online or in person escort services, residential brothels, brothels disguised as massage businesses or spas, in street prostitution, truck stops, strip clubs, hotels and motels. They may lure their victims with promise of a high paying job or promises of a romantic relationship. Traffickers use violence, threats, deception, debt bondage, sexual assault, taking the victim’s identification and money, isolation from friends and family, and may even rename the victim, to trap their victims in horrific situations of bondage.

     There are two main reasons that trafficking has become the second largest criminal industry in the world today: high profits and low risk to the traffickers.



Because of the nature of trafficking, it is difficult to have precise figures, but this is what we know:

  • It is estimated that there are 27 million people worldwide forced in to sex or labor trafficking
  • 4.5 million people are forced into sexual exploitation worldwide
  • Annually, 300,000 people a year are trafficked throughout the U.S. and 20,000 are trafficked into the U.S.
  • Cases of sex trafficking exist in every U.S. state
  • The average age of entry into prostitution is 11-14 years of age
  • Within the first 48 hours of being on the street, 1 in 3 children are lured into prostitution
  • 65-95% of women in prostitution experienced sexual abuse as a child
  • 85-95% of those in prostitution wants to escape it, but do not know where to start

What are signs that Someone May Be a Victim of Trafficking?

     Knowing the red flags and indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need.

Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health

  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

 Other possible signs:

  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

     This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. 

What Can I Do?

     Learn as much as you can about trafficking. You can also become involved in legislation regarding trafficking and its victims. Some great places to start are:

Polaris Project has a toll free number that you can call and report suspicions of trafficking. That number is 1-888-373-7888.