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Education is the first step in understanding how the issue of human trafficking affects our communities and how we each can make a difference.  Below are some commonly asked questions about human trafficking:

Click on a question below to jump to the corresponding answer or scroll down to see the answers to all questions.

What is human trafficking?
Is human trafficking another name for smuggling?
Is human trafficking a crime that must involve some form of travel, transportation, or movement across state or national borders?
Does violence have to be involved in human trafficking?
What types of trafficking exist?
Who are the victims?
Who is at risk?
How are youth typically recruited into human trafficking situations?
Under the federal definition, are human trafficking victims only foreign nationals or immigrants?
Do victims always come from low-income or poor backgrounds?
Do victims of human trafficking self-identify as victims of a crime and ask for help immediately?
Where exactly does trafficking take place?
How do I obtain a copy of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report?
What is the most dangerous myth about human trafficking?
What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons (TIP), is the illegal trade of human beings through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of exploitation for labor, sexual purposes, or organs. It is a crime under federal and international law.  

Researchers estimate that at any given time, there are 40.3 million people in human trafficking, and that it generates $150 billion each year in illicit profits for traffickers. (Sources: U.N. International Labor Organization)

Is human trafficking another name for smuggling?

No. Both are entirely separate federal crimes in the U.S. Human smuggling is the illegal movement of people across borders, whereas human trafficking doesn’t require moving a person at all. Also, while smuggling requires illegal border crossing, human trafficking involves commercial sex acts or labor that are induced through force, fraud, or coercion. Smuggling and trafficking can occur simultaneously.

Is human trafficking a crime that must involve some form of travel, transportation, or movement across state or national borders?

No. Although the word ‘trafficking’ sounds like transportation may be involved, the federal definition of human trafficking in the U.S. does not require transportation. Transportation may or may not be involved in the crime of human trafficking, and it is not a required component.

Does violence have to be involved in human trafficking?

No. As defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, an individual who uses physical or psychological violence to force someone into labor or services or into commercial sex acts is considered a human trafficker. Therefore, while some victims experience beatings, rape, and other forms of physical violence, many victims are controlled by traffickers through psychological means, such as threats of violence, manipulation, and lies. Traffickers frequently use a combination of physical violence and mental and emotional abuse. 

What types of trafficking exist?

The definition of human trafficking involves sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and organ trafficking. Within these categories, there are multiple sub-types of trafficking, including:
Familial trafficking A family member sells another for profit. Often this looks like an older family member or trusted friend coercing or forcing a child, spouse, or intimate partner into trafficking, often to pay for necessities or support an addiction.
Survival trafficking Taking advantage of another person who is seeking to meet their basic needs such as food, housing, etc., and selling that person for profit (runaway, homeless, foster, and orphaned youth are at increased risk).
Gang-controlled trafficking, Forcing or coercing someone to exchange sex for money to support the gang and its activities.
Pimp-controlled trafficking A sex-trafficker (“pimp”) forces victims to engage in prostitution for the pimp’s profit.  Pimps lure and control their victims through manipulation, threat, coercion, and abuse. 
Domestic involuntary servitude Victimized individuals are forced to labor in households or nonprofessional workplaces, usually without the ability to leave.
Forced marriage May differ from an arranged marriage. Individuals are married to another against their will and are often threatened with violence, harm, or intimidation.
Debt bondage, also called bonded labor A person’s debt is exploited by the lender by enslaving the debtor. The trafficker often makes it impossible to pay off the debt.

Who are the victims?

Anyone can be a victim of trafficking. Trafficked persons in the United States can be men or women, adults or children, foreign nationals or US citizens. Some are well-educated, while others have no formal education. While some populations are at greater risk than others, trafficking is a crime that cuts across race, nationality, gender, age, education, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Who is at risk?  

While anyone can become a victim of trafficking, certain populations are especially vulnerable. These may include: undocumented migrants; runaway and homeless individuals; LGBTQ+ identifying individuals; and oppressed, marginalized, and/or impoverished groups and individuals. Traffickers specifically target individuals in these populations because they are vulnerable to recruitment tactics and methods of control. Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are highly vulnerable due to a combination of factors, including: lack of legal status and protections, language and cultural barriers, limited employment options, poverty and immigration-related debts, and social isolation. They are often victimized by traffickers from a similar ethnic or national background, on whom they may be dependent for employment or a means of support.

Youth are at an increased risk of human trafficking, this is why the Prevention Project program exists, to educate and equip youth to be knowledgeable and aware of human trafficking signs, prevention tactics, and how to safely report human trafficking. 

How are youth typically recruited into human trafficking situations?

It is important to note that most child trafficking victims are trafficked by someone known to them. However, traffickers also use the technology (social media, phone apps, etc.) to identify, recruit, and groom youth. Traffickers use manipulation, lies, and false promises to build a relationship with victims, often under the guise of a romantic relationship.

Under the federal definition, are human trafficking victims only foreign nationals or immigrants?

No. The federal definition of human trafficking includes both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals – both are protected under the federal trafficking law and have been since the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. Human trafficking encompasses both transnational trafficking that crosses borders and domestic trafficking that occurs within a country.  

Do victims always come from low-income or poor backgrounds?

No, human trafficking victims can come from a large range of backgrounds, from lower to middle and upper socioeconomic levels. However, in many countries, including the U.S., poverty remains one of many factors that make individuals vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. 

Do victims of human trafficking self-identify as a victim of a crime and ask for help immediately?

Very rarely. Victims of human trafficking often do not seek help immediately, due to lack of trust, self-blame, the stigma of prostitution, or being directly trained by traffickers to distrust authorities. The Prevention Project program provides resources to teachers and administrators on how to identify, report, and assist victims of trafficking.  

Where exactly does trafficking take place?

While human trafficking does occur in illegal and underground markets, it can also occur in corporate or residential settings. For example, common locations of human trafficking include private homes, hotels, nail salons, restaurants, bars, strip clubs, and massage parlors.

How do I obtain a copy of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report?

The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is published annually by the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. An electronic archive of current and previous TIP Reports can be accessed at https://www.state.gov/g/tip/.  

What is the most dangerous myth about human trafficking?

The most dangerous myth about human trafficking is that it does not occur in your community. Human trafficking currently happens throughout the world and has been reported in every state in the U.S., both in small towns and large cities.

Ready to equip the youth in your life with human trafficking prevention education?
Click here to learn more!
  

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