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Human Trafficking
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What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the 2nd largest criminal industry in the world after drugs, but it is the fastest-growing. This is not just an issue that happens in other countries, trafficking has been reported in all 50 states. It can happen to anyone regardless of race, class, education, gender, age, or citizenship. Human Trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose. (Dept. of Homeland Security.)

Human trafficking is complex and dynamic; it has no boundaries, and the scope of the epidemic is difficult to measure. Despite commonalities, every situation is unique.

Sex Trafficking is soliciting or obtaining an adult for commercial sex by use of force, fraud or coercion. It is also soliciting or obtaining a minor for commercial sex, by any means – (22 USC § 7102).

Labor Trafficking is soliciting or obtaining someone for labor services through force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of subjecting them to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery – (22 USC § 7102).

Federal Law:
Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting 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).

Labor trafficking 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 purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, (22 USC § 7102).

Nothing will happen just because we’re aware of modern-day slavery, but nothing will EVER happen until we are.


-Gary Haugen, CEO of IJM

The correlation between prostitution and sex trafficking is tremendously high. Many who work in the commercial sex industry have reported being forced, coerced, or on the verge of homelessness and entered the sex industry for survival.

Globally, Prostitution is the most common sector where sex trafficking takes place for both men and women.

It is estimated that only 1-2% of sex workers are fully voluntary and feel they can leave anytime they want.1

The sex industry is virtually entirely fueled by exploitation and slavery.1

A 2003 study in the Scientific Journal of Trauma reported that 89% of women in prostitution want to escape.2

Between 66-90% of women in the sex industry were sexually abused as children.3

National Statistics

  • According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2019 in the United States, saw a nearly 20 percent increase in the number of victims and survivors who contacted the hotline directly.
  • 83% of victims in the United States were identified by the task forces as U.S. Citizens.

State of California

California consistently has the highest human trafficking rates in the United States and it has 3 of the top 10 cities (L.A. is the number one city in the NATION, San Francisco is #7 and San Diego is #8).4

In 2019, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline Statistics:

  • Victims Identified: 3,021
  • Traffickers Identified: 655
  • Trafficking Businesses: 333
  • Trafficking Cases: 1,507
  • Sex Trafficking: 1,118 Cases
  • Sex & Labor Trafficking: 69 Cases
  • Labor Trafficking: 158 Cases
  • Not Specified: 162 Cases

REACH Statistics

From April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, REACH:

  • Provided services to 89 survivors of human trafficking
  • Sex Trafficking: 72
  • Labor Trafficking: 2
  • Sex & Labor Trafficking: 15
  • 522 Individual Counseling Sessions
  • 162 Case Management Sessions
  • 19 of the 89 survivors were children under the age of 18

1. National Organization For Men Against Sexism. 2021.

2. Bureau of Public Affairs. 2004. The Link Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

3. Anklesaria, A., & Gentile, J. P. (2012). Psychotherapy with women who have worked in the “sex industry”. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 9(10), 27–33.

4. National Human Trafficking Hotline. 2019. Hotline Statistics.

Any recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (22 USC § 7102).

Sex Trafficking is using force, fraud or coercion to get an adult to participate in commercial sex. Sex Trafficking is getting a minor to participate in commercial sex, regardless of how (22 USC § 7102).

Getting a minor to engage in commercial sex is automatically considered human trafficking. It is considered commercial when there is an exchange of any kind.

The FBI has determined that three of the nation’s thirteen High-Intensity Child Prostitution areas are located in California: the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego metropolitan areas.1

  • 1 in 3 children is solicited for sex within 48 hours of running away or becoming homeless in the U.S.2
  • 40-70% of all street youth engage, at least occasionally, in prostitution to meet their basic needs.3
  • There are an estimated 100,000 – 300,000 prostituted children in the U.S.3

1. Judicial Council of California. 2017. Human Trafficking Tool Kit.


3. Polaris Project. (2010). “Human Trafficking Statistics.”

Human trafficking myths


Human trafficking is always or usually a violent crime.


The most pervasive myth about human trafficking is that it often involves kidnapping or physically forcing someone into a situation. In reality, most traffickers use psychological means such as tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor.1


All human trafficking involves sex.


Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to get another person to provide labor or commercial sex. Worldwide, experts believe there are more situations of labor trafficking than of sex trafficking, but there is a much wider awareness of sex trafficking in the U.S. than of labor trafficking.1


Only undocumented foreign nationals get trafficked in the United States.


Polaris has worked on thousands of cases of trafficking involving foreign national survivors who are legally living and/or working in the United States. These include survivors of both sex and labor trafficking.1


Human trafficking only happens in illegal or underground industries.


Human trafficking cases have been reported and prosecuted in industries including restaurants, cleaning services, construction, factories and more.1


Only women and girls can be victims and survivors of sex trafficking.


Men and boys are also victimized by sex traffickers. LGBTQ boys and young men are seen as particularly vulnerable to trafficking.1


Human trafficking involves moving, traveling or transporting a person across state or national borders.


Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling, which involves illegal border crossings. In fact, the crime of human trafficking does not require any movement whatsoever. Survivors can be recruited and trafficked in their own hometowns, even their own homes.1


People being trafficked are physically unable to leave their situations/locked in/held against their will.


That is sometimes the case, however, oftentimes people stay for reasons like lacking the basic necessities to physically get out. Some are afraid and some have been so manipulated that they don’t feel like they are under the control of someone else.1


Since most labor trafficking is linked to exported goods from 3rd world countries, products that were made in America are safe to buy.


91% of trafficking for forced labor in Northern America is linked to domestic production and consumption. Only 9% is linked to exports.2

1. Polaris. 2021. Myths, Facts, and Statistics. 

2. Ending child labour, forced labour and human trafficking in global supply chains: International Labour Organization, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, International Organization for Migration and United Nations Children’s Fund, 2019.

Child Trafficking myths


Child sex traffickers usually kidnap their victims or otherwise take them by force.


Most child sex traffickers operate by building trust with victims, and manipulating them into sexual exploitation.


Parents and other adults should be on the lookout for strangers who are hunting for children to exploit.


Children are far more likely to be trafficked by people they know – including members of their own family.


Some teenagers get involved in the sex trade because they have loose morals. We shouldn’t worry about them.


Anyone involved in selling sexual services who is under the age of 18 is a victim of sex trafficking under U.S. law.


The only way to reduce child sex trafficking is to arrest all the perpetrators.


Law enforcement is an important partner in the work but arrests alone will not solve this. Building and supporting strong families and communities will help prevent child sex trafficking before it happens.


All children are equally at risk for sex trafficking.


As with adults, children who have certain other risk factors are also going to be more at risk for trafficking. These include children who have been abused or faced trauma, children in unstable living situations and children in families battling addiction.


All child trafficking involves sex or prostitution.


Children are victimized in laboring trafficking situations as well, in the United States