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Q. What is human trafficking? 

A. 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 the United States.  Human Trafficking is defined in the Trafficking Protocol as "the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation."  

The definition of trafficking consists of three core elements: 

  • The action of trafficking which means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons 

  • The means of trafficking which includes threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power, or position of vulnerability 

  • The purpose of trafficking which is always exploitation. In the words of the Trafficking Protocol, article 3 "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."

Q. Who are the victims? 

A. Trafficked persons in the United States can be men or women, adults or children, foreign nationals or U.S. 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.    

Q. Who is at risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking? 

A. Human traffickers typically prey on individuals who are vulnerable in some way. Some examples of high risk populations include undocumented migrants, runaways and at-risk youth, and oppressed or marginalized groups. 

Q. Do victims of human trafficking self-identify as a victim of a crime and ask for help immediately? 

A. Often, no. Victims of human trafficking often do not seek help immediately due to lack of trust, self-blame, or being directly trained by traffickers to distrust authorities. 

Q. What types of human trafficking can be found in the United States? 

A. Forced labor, bonded labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, sex trafficking, and child commercial sex trade are all types of human trafficking that occur in the United States.  

Q. Does physical violence have to be involved in human trafficking cases? 

A. No. Under federal law, an individual who uses physical or psychological violence to force someone into labor or services or into commercial sex acts is considered a human trafficker. Therefore, while some victims experience beatings, rape, and other forms of physical violence, many victims are controlled by traffickers through psychological means, such as threats of violence, manipulation, and lies. In many cases, traffickers use a combination of direct violence and mental abuse.  The federal definition of the crime, as defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, was created to address the wider spectrum of methods of control used by traffickers beyond "bodily harm." 

Q. Do victims always come from a low-income or poor background? 

A. No. Human trafficking victims can come from a range of backgrounds and some may come from middle and upper class families. Poverty is one of many factors that make individuals vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. 


Q. How is pimping a form of sex trafficking? 

A. 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 directly 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: 

  1. Force 

  2. Beating and slapping 

  3. Beating with objects (bat, tools, chains, belts, hangers, canes, cords) 

  4. Burning 

  5. Sexual assault 

  6. Rape and gang rape 

  7. Confinement and physical restraint 

  8. Fraud 

  9. False promises 

  10. Deceitful, enticing, and affectionate behavior 

  11. Lying about working conditions 

  12. Lying about the promise of a better life; "selling a dream" 

  13. Coercion 

  14. Threats of serious harm or restraint 

  15. Intimidation and humiliation 

  16. Creating a climate of fear 

  17. Enforcement of trivial demands 

  18. Occasional indulgences 

  19. Intense manipulation 

  20. Emotional abuse 

  21. Isolation 

  22. Creating dependency and fear of independence 

Q. How widespread is human trafficking? 

A. A conservative estimate of the crime puts the number of victims at any one time at 2.5 million. We also know that it affects every region of the world and generates tens of billions of dollars in profits for criminals each year.   

Q. Which countries are affected by human trafficking? 

A. Human trafficking affects every country of the world.  There are countries of origin, transit, or destination - or even a combination of all. 

diana.teixeira. (2013). FAQs.

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