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Human Trafficking Fact Sheet

Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery

It is widespread throughout the United States today. Trafficking of humans is the fastest growing   criminal industry in the world and the second largest after drug dealing. Many victims of trafficking are made to engage in prostitution, pornography or exotic dancing. Trafficking also occurs in the form of labor exploitation, such as domestic servitude, restaurant work, sweatshop factory work, and migrant agricultural work.  Force, fraud, and coercion are the methods used by traffickers to press victims into lives of servitude and abuse:

Force includes rape, beatings, confinement
Fraud includes false offers of employment, marriage, better life
Coercion includes threats, debt-bondage, psychological abuse

Although victims are trafficked for a wide variety of purposes, they all share the loss of one of our most cherished rights—freedom.

There is no one consistent face of a trafficking victim. Trafficked persons can be rich or poor, men or women, adults or children, and foreign nationals or US citizens.  Learn how to recognize victims.

Any child (an individual under the age of 18) engaged in commercial sex is a victim of trafficking

How Trafficking Often Works

There is no one consistent face of a trafficker. Traffickers include a wide range of criminal operators, including individual pimps, small families or businesses, loose-knit decentralized criminal networks, and international organized criminal syndicates. Traffickers use various techniques to instill fear in victims and to keep them enslaved. Some traffickers keep their victims under lock and key. However, the more frequent practice is to use less obvious techniques including:

  • Debt bondage - financial obligations, honor-bound to satisfy debtIsolation from the public - limiting contact with outsiders and making sure that any contact is monitored or superficial in nature
  • Isolation from family members and members of their ethnic and religious community
  • Confiscation of passports, visas and/or identification documents
  • Use or threat of violence toward victims and/or families of victims
  • The threat of shaming victims by exposing circumstances to family
  • Telling victims they will be imprisoned or deported for immigration violations if they contact authorities
  • Control of the victims' money, e.g., holding their money for "safe-keeping"

Victims of trafficking can be found in:

  • Commercial sex
  • Domestic situations (nannies or servants)
  • Sweatshop factories
  • Construction
  • Farming or landscaping
  • Fisheries
  • Hotel or tourist industries
  • Panhandling
  • Janitorial services
  • Restaurant services

Human Trafficking and the Law

Myths and Misconceptions

The definition of trafficking used in U.S. federal law does not require crossing of international or state borders. Traffickers commit crimes of fraud and violence and use other forms of coercion to victimize vulnerable people for profit. Human trafficking victims can be foreign nationals or U.S. citizens, young or old, in rural or urban settings. The crimes that are committed in order to traffic victims (and maintain their compliance) warrant vigorous justice system intervention, (WI Dept. of Justice).

This information has been garnered from the Polaris Project and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

Support for Victims of Human Trafficking is Available

If you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking, call the Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline at 1.888.3737.888 to obtain information and to access supportive services through the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA). This hotline will help victims safely and securely rebuild their lives by connecting them to basic services including:

  • Housing
  • Health care  
  • Immigration assistance  
  • Food  
  • Income  
  • Employment  
  • Legal assistance  
  • Trafficking is not smuggling or forced movement (an immigration or civil issue)
  • Trafficking does not require transportation or border crossing, and does not only happen to immigrants or foreign nationals.
  • Trafficking does not require physical force, physical abuse, or physical restraint.
  • The consent of the victim is considered irrelevant, as is payment.

Victims of human trafficking who are non-U.S. citizens are eligible to receive benefits and services through the TVPRA to the same extent as refugees. Victims who are U.S. citizens are already eligible to receive many of these benefits.

If you think someone is a victim of human trafficking, call the Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline:  1.888.3737.888