Human Trafficking FAQs

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons (TIP), is a modern-day form of slavery. It is a crime under state, federal and international law. It is currently the second largest type of criminal activity, exceeded only by the illegal drug trade.

This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will.

For more information, see “What is Trafficking in Persons?

What are the major types of trafficking?

There are two major types of human trafficking: 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 is under 18 years or ages; and labor trafficking, which is 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.

Other forms of trafficking include organ removal and mail order brides/forced marriages.

Why are so many people caught up in human trafficking at this time in history?

There are 21-30 million being trafficked today, more than at any other time in human history. Some of the factors that account for this number include the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989, the population explosion, widespread poverty of people and their resulting vulnerability to traffickers, huge increase in migrating peoples due to war, climate change, need for economic stability, etc., and reluctance on the part of governments at all levels to pass and enforce laws that protect people from the crime of human trafficking.

Where is human trafficking most prevalent?

There are people being trafficked in every country in the world. The greatest number are in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal). Africa and South America both have large numbers of trafficking victims, and the recent increase in human trafficking is bringing thousands of victims to  many countries in Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.

Is human trafficking a problem in the United States?

Yes. According to the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, published by the State Department, “the United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children—both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals—subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including domestic servitude. Trafficking can occur in both legal and illicit industries or markets, including in brothels, escort services, massage parlors, strip clubs, street prostitution, hotel services, hospitality, sales crews, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, construction, health and elder care, and domestic service.”

Currently, how many people are being trafficked in the United States?

Human trafficking is a hidden crime, which makes good data difficult to obtain. The U.S. Department of State estimates that between 14,500 – 17,500 human beings are trafficked into the U.S. annually.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports the following information regarding statistics on trafficking in the U.S.:

“There is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S.  With 100,000 children estimated to be in the sex trade in the United States each year, it is clear that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated.”

To view Polaris Project’s 2015 statistics on human trafficking in the U.S.: Click Here

What is the role of government in ending human trafficking?

Most countries, including the U.S., have passed laws against human trafficking, and by doing so they have promised to end it within their borders. However, resources that would educate and empower police to vigorously enforce these laws have been much less than is necessary and slow in coming. Concerned citizens need to insist that federal, state and local anti-trafficking laws are enforced, officers are trained, and that the courts follow through on prosecuting traffickers to the full extent of the law.

For information on U.S. anti-trafficking laws: Click Here

Polaris Project has rated all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 10 categories of laws that are critical to a basic legal framework that combats human trafficking, punishes traffickers and supports survivors.  See how your state rates on anti-trafficking laws: Click Here

Does business have a role to play in ending human trafficking?

Yes. Employers and business have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in the fight against human trafficking. They are well placed to provide effective and sustained action in the community, at the workplace and in the global economy. Business engagement, alongside that of key stakeholders such as public policy actors and civil society, is essential in the global fight to rid the world of this modern scourge.

Many resources are available on the role of business in the fight against human trafficking. Here are some of the best resources currently available:

  • Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility: Click Here
  • United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking: Click Here
  • Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking:  Click Here
  • The Important Role for Socially Responsible Businesses in the Fight Against Human Trafficking and Child Labor in Supply Chains: Click Here

What can I do to address the crime of human trafficking?

  1. Educate yourself about human trafficking. Many educational resources are available on this website to help people understand what human trafficking is and how prevalent it is in our world and country today. Use these resources and visit the website often to stay informed on current news and actions you can take to address this issue.
  2. Read books, watch DVDs, and participate in webinars on human trafficking.
  3. Be a responsible consumer! Support socially responsible businesses that are active in the fight against human trafficking (e.g. hotels that have signed the ECPAT Code, organizations that sell fair trade/slave-free goods, etc.).
  4. Become politically active! Encourage lawmakers to introduce, support and enact effective, well-funded laws that will address all forms of human trafficking.
  5. Learn the signs of human 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: Click Here
  6. If you believe you have information about a potential trafficking situation, report it! Do NOT approach a trafficker or attempt to rescue a victim. Follow these guidelines to safely report a potential trafficking situation:
    1. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or Text 233733 (“BeFree”): Specialists are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking. All reports are confidential and you may remain anonymous. Interpreters are available.
    2. Submit a tip online through the anonymous online reporting form below. For immediate assistance or to speak directly with an NHTRC Call Specialist, please contact us 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888.
    3. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 immediately.
  1. Offer your financial support to local and national survivor services. To see our list of Survivor Resources: Click Here
  2. Support/join local groups working to address human trafficking issues in your community.