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What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the use of force, abuse of power, deception, abduction, or coercion to exploit persons for prostitution, forced labor, domestic servitude, or the removal of organs. Perpetrators of human trafficking are those who recruit, transport, transfer, harbor, or receive persons for the above exploitative purposes.[1]

[1] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html

How widespread is human trafficking in the United States?

The National Human Trafficking Hotline maintains one of the most extensive data sets on the issue of human trafficking in the United States. In 2020, 51,667 substantive signals of human trafficking were made to the hotline and 10,583 unique cases (incidents) of potential human trafficking were reported to the hotline. Of the unique cases,

  • 72 percent involved sex trafficking.
  • 10 percent involved labor trafficking.
  • 3 percent involved sex and labor trafficking.
  • 15 percent did not have a specified trafficking type.
  • 76 percent of trafficking victims were adults; 15 percent were minors.
  • 58 percent of victims were females; 42 percent were males.[1]

[1] National Human Trafficking Hotline Data Report. (2021.). Polaris. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://humantraffickinghotline.org/resources/2020-national-hotline-annual-report.

What culture changes and public policies are necessary for preventing human trafficking?

More Americans must come to appreciate that human trafficking is not only a crime that happens internationally, but also here in our own country. We must increase our outrage that this exploitation of others occurs. We cannot overlook or tolerate the exploitation of others for any cause, including for sex or labor.

The United States and many of its states have laws making human trafficking crimes, with serious financial penalties and imprisonment as punishment options. There are also exists public funding streams to support the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes and support services for victims. These laws should be maintained, and funding for victim services programs should be increased.

Laws that intentionally or inadvertently affix criminality on victims of human trafficking should be repealed. Removing such laws would remove a barrier that some trafficking victims face in reporting crimes, and therefore in our overall ability to control or prevent perpetrators from exploiting others.

What practical solutions are effective for preventing human trafficking?

Practical solutions for preventing human trafficking include mounting awareness campaigns to increase public and victim awareness of the indicators of human trafficking. Awareness campaigns could improve the public’s ability to spot and report instances of trafficking to appropriate public authorities. Also, perpetrators of trafficking could benefit from psycho-social and restorative interventions that lead to their foregoing future trafficking. Learn more about these practical peaceful solutions in our Choose Peaceful Practices series of information pages.

What can I do to prevent or stop human trafficking?

  • Raise Awareness—Become educated and educate others on human trafficking and courses of action. Use the resources listed in this information sheet for your further learning.
  • Buy Conscientiously—As consumers we have leverage over our purchases. Learn about who is making the products you purchase and avoid brands who use forced labor. Additionally, pressure companies to investigate human trafficking in their supply chains and provide this information to the public.
  • Look for Signs of Trafficking—Learn the indicators of human trafficking such as the person appearing fearful, timid, submissive, or deferential in the company of another person(s); appearing coached in what to say; lacking personal possessions such as mobile phones, wallets, and keys; and restricted from freely leaving where they live. These are just several of the indicators. See full list.
  • Report Trafficking Crimes— If you believe you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking or may have information about a trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888 or visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org. You can also text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733.
  • In Case of Emergency—If you are experiencing or witnessing an emergency involving human trafficking, call 911 or try to get to a location where others can observe your distress and intervene.

Where can I find statistics about human trafficking?

For statistics about human trafficking, see the National Human Trafficking Hotline Statistics.

Where else might I go to learn more about human trafficking?

Government agencies, nonprofit organizations, research centers, and/or think tank organizations with expertise in human trafficking include:

Do Something about Human Trafficking (PDF)

Page Author: Shumyla Hussain (volunteer)

Have a suggested improvement to this information sheet? Send it to inbox@peacethroughaction.org

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