Human trafficking is recruiting and exploiting the labor or services of another person through force, fraud, or coercion. Whether or not coercive means are used, ALL minors in the sex trade are victims of trafficking. This problem goes beyond nationality, gender, race, class, schooling, culture, or age.

Human trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in the world, outranked only by arms and drug dealing. Various sources estimate annual revenue from $5 to $32 billion for the traffickers. Experts estimate the number of people trafficked each year is in the millions. The profitability of modern-day slavery and its low investigation and prosecution rates make it a fast growing criminal industry.

When Ashley was 12-years-old she got into a fight with her mother and ran away from home. She ended up staying with her friend’s older brother at his house and intended to go home the next day, but when she tried to leave he told her that he was a pimp and that she was now his property. He locked her in a room, beat her daily, and advertised her for sex on websites. Once, she looked out a window and saw her mother on the street, crying and posting flyers with Ashley’s photo. When Ashley tried to shout her mother’s name from the window her pimp grabbed her by the hair and yanked her back, threatening “If you shout, I’ll kill you.” Ashley eventually escaped her confinement and is now at a treatment center for girls who have been sexually trafficked in New York.


Maria Elena was 13 years old when a family acquaintance told her she could make ten times as much money waiting tables in the United States than she could in her small village. She and several other girls were driven across the border, and then continued the rest of the way on foot. They traveled four days and nights through the desert, making their way into Texas, then crossing east toward Florida. Finally, Maria Elena and the other girls arrived at their destination, a rundown trailer where they were forced into prostitution. Maria Elena was gang-raped and locked in the trailer until she agreed to do what she was told. She lived under 24-hour watch and was forced to have sex with up to 30 men a day. When she got pregnant, she was forced to have an abortion and sent back to work the next day. Maria Elena finally made her escape only to be arrested along with her traffickers.


For over 20 years, the owners and staff of a turkey-processing plant subjected 32 men with intellectual disabilities to severe verbal and physical abuse. The company housed the workers in a “bunkhouse” with inadequate heating, dirty mattresses, and a roof in such disrepair that buckets were put out to catch rainwater; the infestation of insects was so serious the men swatted cockroaches away as they ate. Although the men were as productive as other workers, the company paid them only $15 a week (41 cents an hour) for labor that legally should have been compensated at $11-12 an hour. The employers hit, kicked, and generally subjected the men to abuse, forcing some of the men to carry heavy weights as punishment and in at least one case handcuffed a man to a bed. Supervisors dismissed complaints of injuries or pain, denied the men recreation, cellphones, and health care. The U.S. government filed an abuse and discrimination case against the company for damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act. During the trial, the attorney representing the men said: “The evidence is these men were treated like property…these men are people. They are individuals.” A jury awarded the men a total of approximately $3,000,000, the largest jury verdict in the history of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


Mauri was only 16 years old when she was prostituted on the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii. For her, there was no escape; her pimp threatened to kill her family if she did not go out on the street night after night to make him money. If Mauri tried to use some of the money to buy food, she was severely beaten. Mauri finally escaped when she was picked up by law enforcement. She is now in a rehabilitation program and has reunited with her parents, but her road to recovery has been long and difficult. She suffers from terrible flashbacks and severe depression, and has even attempted suicide. Mauri says she was lucky to get out alive: “The longer you stay the less hope you have.”


Victims' stories as recounted in the Trafficking in Persons Report, United States of America June 2012 and June 2013

Major human trafficking hubs in the United States include:
* Cleveland
* Houston
* Las Vegas
* Los Angeles
* Miami
* New York City
* Sacramento
* San Francisco
But the bottom line is ....

Trafficking affects everyone’s community.

Here are some additional resources to learn more about Human Trafficking: