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What Is Human Trafficking? Know The Facts

Human trafficking is a major world wide problem. It is the third most profitable illegal industry after arms and drugs sales, raking in $32 billion in annual profits. Millions of children and adults are trafficked into sex slavery every single year. In this series we are learning about human trafficking, what is it, how can we prevent it, and how we can help those affected by it. This post will cover the first question: what is human trafficking?

To inform myself on the issue, I took OUR Rescue's free online training course which I highly recommend. It's only an hour long, and comes from an outstanding organization.

What Is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is modern day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labour or sex act.

  • It can occur anywhere, and be domestic or international. You may cross a victim of human trafficking at an airport, a hotel, or a shopping mall.

  • Trafficking exists in many forms: domestic servitude, forced labour, and sex trafficking.

  • Sex trafficking is when a person is forced to perform sexual acts for profit.

  • Any child under the age of 18 performing sex acts, no matter the level of consent, is considered human trafficking.

Who Are The Victims of Human Trafficking?

Victims of human trafficking range in age, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic background.

  • An important commonality that many victims share is vulnerability. This can include homelessness, addiction, poverty, abuse, neglect, isolation, or poor family relationships.

  • Even if it's hard to understand, many victims develop an emotional bond with their trafficker which keeps them from leaving, even if they have the chance to.

How Do Traffickers Find and Control Their Victims?

Traffickers are masters at identifying and exploiting the vulnerabilities of their victims.
  • Traffickers use many tactics to control their victims including threats, physical violence, rape, starvation, and blackmail.

  • One of the most common ways individuals, especially children, are lured into trafficking is on the internet. Social media and gaming platforms enable traffickers to easily stalk and groom their victims.

  • It is common for traffickers to exploit immigrants who do not speak the native language. They confiscate travel documents, ID's, and money to control them.

  • Victims are often manipulated to believe they owe their trafficker money or services, and cannot leave until their debt is paid off.

Key Human Trafficking Facts:

  • There is currently an estimated 40.3 million people enslaved into human trafficking

  • 1 in 4 slavery victims are children

  • 71% of slavery victims are women and girls

  • 600,000 - 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year according to the US State Department

  • 2 million children are sexually exploited in the multi-billion dollar trafficking industry each year

  • The human trafficking industry generates $32 billion annually

  • The United States is the most common destination for victims

  • Over 30,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended at the US/Mexico border between 2010-2018 that were victimized by human trafficking

  • Between 14,000-19,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year.

Learn about how to recognize the signs of human trafficking in our next post of this series.

Observe. Speak Up. Report.

Always report suspected human trafficking to 911. It is better to be safe than to say nothing. If a victim is in need of services, it can be helpful to give them the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number.

Ways to report:

Call: 1-888-373-7888

Text: "BeFree" to 233722

Submit an online form at

This hotline is run by Polaris. Victims, including undocumented individuals, are protected under US law and are eligible for services. You can encourage a suspected victim to call the hotline number, or call yourself to report a suspected case.

Read the next post in the series: Know The Signs of Human Trafficking

Thanks for reading! If you're interested in self defense and street safety, have a look around our blog and website, and don't forget to follow our instagram and facebook for great tips!


Author: Gemma Sheehan, Founder of Girls Who Fight Inc.

Gemma is an ex-MMA fighter who started Girls Who Fight Inc to bring the value of martial arts and self defense training to the female audience.


The Girls Who Fight Film, By Jennifer Roberts

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