Human Trafficking facts


There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 27 million in bondage across the globe. Men, women, and children are being exploited for manual and sexual labor against their will.

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 federal and international law. It is also a crime in the majority of U.S. states.

Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings, mainly for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. As the world’s fastest growing criminal industry, it affects every nation across the globe. Every thirty seconds, someone is forced into this type of bondage—modern slavery.

Is human trafficking another word for smuggling?
No. There are many fundamental differences between the crimes of human trafficking and human smuggling. Both are entirely separate federal crimes in the U.S. Most notably, smuggling is a crime against a country’s borders, whereas human trafficking is a crime against a person. Also, while smuggling requires illegal border crossing, human trafficking involves commercial sex acts or labor or services that are induced through force, fraud, or coercion. Unlike smuggling, human trafficking does not require transportation. Click here for more information about state and federal laws defining human trafficking.

Who are the victims?
There is not one consistent face of trafficking victim. 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 anyone can become a victim of trafficking, certain populations are especially vulnerable. These may include: undocumented migrants; runaway and homeless youth; 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 US are highly vulnerable due to a combination of factors, including: lack of legal status and protections, language 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.

“There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach—and in the destruction of lives.”

– National Geographic


It is estimated that there are between 4 and 27 million slaves in the world today. Unicef, as well as The US government, break slavery into 2 categories: Sex Trafficking and Labor Trafficking. Our Federal Government has defined sex trafficking as: “a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.


Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise and is an estimated $32 billion-a-year global industry. After drug trafficking, human trafficking is the world’s second most profitable criminal enterprise, a status it shares with illegal arms trafficking. Like drug and arms trafficking, the United States is one of the top destination countries for trafficking in persons. California – a populous border state with a significant immigrant population and the world’s ninth largest economy – is one of the nation’s top four destination states for trafficking human beings.

Transnational and domestic gangs have recently expanded from trafficking guns and drugs to trafficking human beings. Transnational gangs use cross-border tunnels to move not only guns and drugs, but also human beings, from Mexico into California. Domestic street gangs set aside traditional rivalries to set up commercial sex rings and maximize profits from the sale of young women. The perpetrators of human trafficking have become more sophisticated and organized, requiring an equally sophisticated response from law en¬forcement and its partners to disrupt and dismantle their networks.

The Internet and new technologies have also transformed the landscape of human trafficking. Traffickers use social media and other online tools to recruit victims and, in the case of sex trafficking, find and communicate with customers. While technology is being used to perpetrate human trafficking, that same technology can provide a digital trail – a valuable investigative tool for law enforcement to monitor, collect, and analyze online data and activities. Further, there are currently efforts underway to study and develop innovative technologies to prevent and disrupt human trafficking online. The Internet, social media, and mobile devices also provide new avenues for outreach to victims and raising public awareness about this atrocious crime.

How is pimping a form of sex trafficking?
If certain behaviors and elements of control are present, yes, it can be. In the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a severe form of sex trafficking is a crime in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age. Pimps, who are motivated by the opportunity to make money, sell women and girls in the commercial sex industry by using numerous methods to gain control over their bodies and minds. Many of these behaviors direclty meet the definitions of force, fraud, or coercion that are the central elements of the crime of human trafficking. It is often difficult to identify a pimp who is not using some form of deceit, lies, manipulation, threats, or violence towards the women or girls they are attempting to control. An elaborated list of these controlling behaviors of pimps is provided below:


Beating and slapping
Beating with objects (bat, tools, chains, belts, hangers, canes, cords)
Sexual assault
Rape and gang rape
Confinement and physical restraint
False promises
Deceitful enticing and affectionate behavior
Lying about working conditions
Lying about the promise of a better life, “selling a dream”
Threats of serious harm or restraint
Intimidation and humiliation
Creating a climate of fear
Enforcement of trivial demands
Occasional Indulgences
Intense manipulation
Emotional abuse
Creating dependency and fear of independence
Click here for more information about state and federal laws defining human trafficking, or click here for more resources about sex trafficking and pimp-controlled prostitution.


Fact Sources:,,

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