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Sex Trafficking

What Is Human Trafficking?

Sex Trafficking (Street-Based)Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Minors under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex are considered to be human trafficking, regardless of the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

Sex traffickers frequently target victims and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry for their own profit. 

Sex trafficking exists within diverse and unique sets of venues and business including fake massage businesses, escort services, residential brothels, in public on city streets and in truck stops, strip clubs, hostess clubs, hotels and motels, and elsewhere. 

In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines sex trafficking as:  “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the 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” (22 USC § 7102). The term “commercial sex act” is defined as any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person (22 U.S.C. 7102). See the Federal Laws page for more detailed definitions.

Action-Means-Purpose Model

Sex trafficking may be distinguished from other forms of commercial sex by applying the Action + Means + Purpose Model. Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker takes any one of the enumerated actions, and then employs the means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of compelling the victim to provide commercial sex acts. At a minimum, one element from each column must be present to establish a potential situation of sex trafficking. The presence of force, fraud or coercion indicates that the victim has not consented of his or her own free will. In addition, minors under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex are considered to be human trafficking, regardless of the use of force, fraud or coercion.  

Demand For Sex Trafficking: What You Need To Know

In cases of sex trafficking, individuals who buy commercial sex provide the demand and profit incentive for traffickers. Many buyers of commercial sex are unaware, ill-informed, or in denial of the abusive realities of commercial sex. When sex trafficking is present, victims are often subjected to violence, threats, controlling behaviors, false promises, lies, and manipulation perpetrated by their traffickers.

The following information on sex trafficking cases is based solely on information learned through the substantive, US-based signals -- phone calls, emails, and online tip reports -- received by the NHTRC hotline as of December 31, 2015

Total statistics from 12/7/07 to 03/31/2016.

Since 2007

Total Cases: 17,819
Total Victims - Moderate: 14,899
Cases categorized as “High” contain a high level of indicators of human trafficking. Cases coded as “Moderate” contain several indicators of human trafficking, or resemble common trafficking scenarios but lack core details of force, fraud, or coercion.
Total Victims - High: 14,737
2016 statistics are current as of March 31, 2016.

Sex Trafficking Story | Child Sex Trafficking

Laura, a school counselor, called the NHTRC because she was concerned that one of her middle school students, Alyssa, was engaging in commercial sex.

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Sex Trafficking Story | Child Sex Trafficking

An attorney called the NHTRC in search of specialized mental health resources for survivors of human trafficking. Her client, Vanessa, was forced into commercial sex when she was a minor.

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Surviving the Streets of New York: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YMSM, and YWSW Engaged in Survival Sex

Based on interviews with 283 youth in New York City, this is the first study to focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth; young men who have sex with men

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Indicator Card

Sex Trafficking Victim Outreach Card

A wallet-sized card with indicators of sex trafficking and contact information for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC).

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