Frequently Asked Questions

What is Human Trafficking?

An ACT or attempted act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person…
By MEANS of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person…
For the PURPOSE of exploitation. Exploitation at a minimum includes the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation is irrelevant where any of the means above have been used, or when the person trafficked is less than eighteen years old.

Human trafficking is a process that culminates in the enslavement of human beings. At the end of this horrifying chain of events men, women, and children around the world find themselves ruthlessly exploited in and captive to industries ranging from agricultural and factory work, domestic service, and the commercial sex industry. Tragically there is no community or country that is immune from the possibility of human trafficking occurring within its borders. Whether as a source area from where victims are “supplied,” a transit area through which victims are transported, or as the ultimate destination where victims serve as slaves, countless communities around the world are at risk to human traffickers who stealthily steal the lives of individual citizens and rob the community of its wholeness and well-being.      

Human trafficking is a gross injustice to the individual victim. It is also a plundering and looting of local communities. No one should be robbed of their human dignity; no community should be ransacked of its members. In short, human trafficking is an affront to individual human dignity and community health. Therefore, we are resolved to work towards its abolition. 

Isn't this a black and white issue?

When we speak in clear terms about human trafficking it seems black and white or easy. It's not. There are many issues which make this topic highly debatable and hard to combat. Here are a few examples:

Sometimes when a woman is bought and sold enough she believes her worth is in her body and prostitution or pornography becomes her life. The man in a similar predicament stops looking for an escape and may not even take it when it comes. This leaves people thinking “she wants this” or “he chose this life”. Or sometimes with children, they become so bonded to their trafficker and “love” them and don’t want to leave.

92% of women in the US who were involved in prostitution said they wanted to leave prostitution, but couldn't because they lack basic human services such as a home, job training, health care, counseling and treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.* A prostituted woman might also be afraid of what her pimp will do to her and afraid for her life if she tries to leave. For many women and men, prostitution and sexual exploitation might be the only life they know. The average age for girls entering the commercial sex industry is between 12-13.** And studies show that 75 to 95% of all commercially sexually exploited persons were sexually abused as children.***

What is the most common form of trafficking?

There is an assumption that sex trafficking is the most common form of trafficking that occurs. However, that is a false assumption. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20 million people in human trafficking, 14.2 million are trapped in forced labor compared to the 4.5 million in sex trafficking.**** It is important that we do not forget those who are in forced labor situations.

How wide spread is trafficking?

Trafficking is a global problem. Whether they are a source, transit or destination country for victims, all countries suffer from the plight of trafficking. Sadly, many people feel that the problem is an "over-there" problem. Unfortunately, it occurs in all communities.

Does Human Trafficking Occur in the United States?

Yes. We are not immune from trafficking. Although there is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S., the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline has received calls from all 50 states and D.C. And each year the number of calls grows. It is also important to point out that there is both sex and labor trafficking occurring the United States. 

What is the difference between  smuggling and trafficking?

At times human smuggling is confused with human trafficking. However, they are not the same. There are four factors that are different. Consent: Migrants who are being smuggled have consented to the act whereas trafficking victims have either never consented, or if there was consent it was made meaningless by the coercive, deceptive, or abusive actions of the traffickers. Exploitation: Smuggling ends with the migrants' arrival at their destination. Trafficking in persons involves ongoing exploitation on the victims in some manner to generate illicit profits for the traffickers. Transnationality: Smuggling is always transnational, however trafficking may not always be transnational. Trafficking can occur regardless of whether victims are taken to another country or now. Profits: In human smuggling the criminal profits are generated through the movement alone; in cases of trafficking the profits are primarily generated by the subsequent sexual or labor exploitation of the victim.

What can I do to prevent trafficking?

The best thing you can do is to educate yourself about trafficking and the signs of trafficking. Know the number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888) to report your suspicions. You can find more information on different ways you can take action here.

What laws are there regarding trafficking?

There are many laws that address human trafficking. In the United States most states have laws that address trafficking. At the federal level, the main law is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) which was first past in 2000. This hallmark legislation established several methods of prosecuting traffickers, preventing human trafficking, and protecting victims and survivors of trafficking. The act establishes human trafficking and related offenses as federal crimes, and attaches severe penalties to them. It also mandates restitution be paid to victims of human trafficking. It further works to prevent trafficking by establishing the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, which is required to publish a Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report each year. The TIP report describes and ranks the efforts of countries to combat human trafficking. The act also established the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, which assists in the implementation of the TVPA. The TVPA protects victims and survivors of human trafficking by establishing the T visa, which allows victims of human trafficking, and their families to become temporary U.S. residents and eligible to become permanent residents after three years.

Internationally, the United Nations adopted what is known as the Palermo Protocol in 2000. The protocol states that:  Trafficking in persons is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation…shall be irrelevant where any of the means …have been used. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth… “Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.

* "People in prostitution suffer from wartime trauma symptoms caused by acts of violence against them," Business Wire, 18 August 1998
** Lois Lee, Children of the Night, Brad Knickerbocker, "Prostitution’s Pernicious Reach Grows in the US," Christian Science Monitor, 23 October 1996
*** Debra Boyer, U. Washington, Susan Breault of the Paul & Lisa Program, "Danger for prostitutes increasing, most starting younger," Beacon Journal, 21 September 1997

****Human Trafficking National Resource Center, "How Not to Talk About Human Trafficking,"