Statistics from the Polaris Project:
Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery — a multibillion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom.
Although slavery is commonly thought to be a thing of the past, human traffickers generate hundreds of billions of dollars in profits by trapping millions of people in horrific situations around the world, including here in the U.S. Traffickers use violence, threats, deception, debt bondage, and other manipulative tactics to force people to engage in commercial sex or to provide labor or services against their will. While more research is needed on the scope of human trafficking, below are a few key statistics:
- The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.
- 68% of them are trapped in forced labor.
- 26% of them are children.
- 55% are women and girls.
- The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
- The U.S. Department of Labor has identified 136 goods from 74 countries made by forced and child labor.
- In 2014, an estimated 1 out of 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims.
- Of those, 68% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran.
- There is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. Polaris estimates that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated.
Statistics from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline and Polaris BeFree Textline:
- More than 21,000 total cases of human trafficking have been reported to the NHTRC hotline in the last eight years.
- The NHTRC hotline annually receives multiple reports of human trafficking cases in each of the 50 states and D.C. The number of human trafficking cases that Polaris learns about in the U.S. increases every year.
- 23% of texting conversations on the Polaris BeFree Textline were from survivors of human trafficking compared to 11% of phone calls on the NHTRC hotline.
- The NHTRC hotline receives an average of 100 calls per day.
Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally.
Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion. The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary dramatically. Many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces or manipulates them into prostitution. Others are lured in with false promises of a job, such as modeling or dancing. Some are forced to sell sex by their parents or other family members. They may be involved in a trafficking situation for a few days or weeks, or may remain in the same trafficking situation for years.
Victims of sex trafficking can be U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, women, men, children, and LGBTQ individuals. Vulnerable populations are frequently targeted by traffickers, including runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war, or social discrimination.
Sex trafficking occurs in a range of venues including fake massage businesses, via online ads or escort services, in residential brothels, on the street or at truck stops, or at hotels and motels.
- Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, operated by Polaris, has received reports of 14,588 sex trafficking cases inside the United States. Find more hotline statistics here.
- In 2014, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims.
- Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally.
- In a 2014 report, the Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex economy ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado, to $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia.
Labor trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally.
Labor traffickers – including recruiters, contractors, employers, and others – use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, or other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in many different industries.
Labor traffickers often make false promises of a high-paying job or exciting education or travel opportunities to lure people into horrendous working conditions. Yet, victims find that the reality of their jobs proves to be far different than promised and must frequently work long hours for little to no pay. Their employers exert such physical or psychological control – including physical abuse, debt bondage, confiscation of passports or money – that the victim believes they have no other choice but to continue working for that employer.
U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, women, men, children, and LGBTQ individuals can be victims of labor trafficking. Vulnerable populations are frequently targeted by traffickers. Immigration status, recruitment debt, isolation, poverty, and a lack of strong labor protections are just some of the vulnerabilities that can lead to labor trafficking.
Labor trafficking occurs in numerous industries in the U.S. and globally. In the United States, common types of labor trafficking include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, farmworkers coerced through violence as they harvest crops, or factory workers held in inhumane conditions. Labor trafficking has also been reported in door-to-door sales crews, restaurants, construction work, carnivals, and even health and beauty services.
- Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 14.2 million people trapped in forced labor in industries including agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing.
- The U.S. Department of Labor has identified 136 goods from 74 countries made by forced and child labor.
- Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, operated by Polaris, received reports of more than 4,000 labor trafficking cases inside the United States. Find more hotline statistics here.
- In a 2014 study from the Urban Institute of 122 closed cases of labor trafficking, Hidden in Plain Sight, seventy-one percent of the labor trafficking victims in the study entered the United States on lawful visas. These victims paid an average of $6,150 in recruitment fees for jobs in the United States.
- In a study from San Diego State University, 31% of undocumented, spanish-speaking migrant workers interviewed in San Diego County had experienced labor trafficking.
Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health
- Lacks health care
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
Victims of human trafficking are frequently lured by false promises of a lucrative job, stability, education, or a loving relationship. Victims can be men or women, adults or children, foreign nationals or U.S. citizens. While they share the trait of vulnerability, victims have diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may be documented or undocumented.
As defined under U.S. law, victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:
- Children under age 18 induced into commercial sex.
- Adults aged 18 or over induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion.
- Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion.
While human trafficking spans all demographics, there are some circumstances or vulnerabilities that lead to a higher susceptibility to victimization and human trafficking. Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war or conflict, or social discrimination are frequently targeted by traffickers. Foreign nationals who have paid significant recruitment and travel fees often become highly indebted to traffickers or other intermediaries. Traffickers control and manipulate these individuals by leveraging the non-portability of many work visas as well as the victim’s’ lack of familiarity with surroundings, laws and rights, language fluency, and cultural understanding.
Victims face many challenges in accessing help. Their traffickers may confiscate their identification documents and money. They may not speak English. They may not know where they are, because they have been moved frequently. They are often not allowed to communicate with family or friends. And they may have trouble trusting others, due to their traffickers’ manipulation and control tactics.
Traffickers lure and ensnare people into forced labor and sex trafficking by manipulating and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Human traffickers recruit, transport, harbor, obtain, and exploit victims – often using force, threats, lies, or other psychological coercion. Traffickers promise a high-paying job, a loving relationship, or new and exciting opportunities. In other cases, they may kidnap victims or use physical violence or substance abuse to control them.
Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, including physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, confiscation of identification and money, isolation from friends and family, and even renaming victims. Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for myriad reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their children’s safety.
Often the traffickers and their victims share the same national, ethnic, or cultural background, allowing the trafficker to better understand and exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims.
Traffickers can be lone individuals or extensive criminal networks. Pimps, gangs, family members, labor brokers, employers of domestic servants, small business owners, and large factory owners have all been found guilty of human trafficking. Their common thread is a willingness to exploit other human beings for profit.
Statistics from The Guardian Group:
- Human trafficking is currently the second largest & fastest growing crime industry
- It reportedly generates a profit of $150 billion every year
- Of that number, nearly half is made in industrialized countries
- It is estimated that an exploiter may earn as much as $650,000 in a year by exploiting as few as 4 children
- The National Incidence of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway (NISMART) children estimate that 1.6 million children run away from home each year in the US
- One in three teens will be recruited by a predator within 48 hours of leaving home
- Women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims
- The average age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the US is 12 years old
- According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year
- 80% are female and half are children
- At least 100,000 to 300,000 youth are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation annually in the US alone
- In 2014, human sex trafficking generated illegal profits of approximately $99 Billion worldwide
- Only 18% of local, county or state law enforcement agencies have had some form of human trafficking training
- The average life expectancy of a child once prostituted is only 7 years