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Human Trafficking

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Causing someone under the age of 18 to engage in a commercial sex act, regardless of using force, fraud, or coercion is human trafficking under U.S.

Human traffickers use various forms of force, fraud, and coercion to control and exploit victims. These forms include imposing of debt, fraudulent employment opportunities, false promises of love or a better life, psychological coercion, and violence or threats of violence.

The crime of human trafficking hinges on the exploitation of another person. People often falsely believe “human trafficking” implies victims must be moved from one place to another to qualify as a victim. Human trafficking does not require transportation to be considered a crime.

It is a crime that can be committed against an individual who has never left their hometown. Human trafficking victims can be any age, race, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, immigration status, and socioeconomic class. In many cases, victims do not
come forward to seek help because they are vulnerable, potential language barriers may exist, they have a fear of law enforcement, or they do not identify as a victim.

How Traffickers operate

Traffickers often prey on victims with little or no social safety net. They look for victims who are vulnerable because of their lack of social or family support systems, unstable housing, previous traumatic experiences or abuse, immigration status, limited English proficiency, and inability to decipher exploitative situations.

Traffickers recognize these factors, along with other risk factors, may make someone more likely to take risks to access opportunities and stability. Youth may also be targeted by traffickers simply because they are young and may be less equipped to make informed and sound decisions when presented with a situation that
may lead to trafficking.

Who are traffickers?

There is no single face of traffickers, they can be any gender, age, or race.
To victims, they can be:

  • “Pimps” or a romantic partner
  • Employers or other professionals
  • Community leaders or people of prominence
  • Family members
  • Friends or peers
  • Strangers
  • Connected by mutual friends

In some cases, there is no trafficker controlling or benefiting from youth victims, but only the buyer who is committing a crime. Based on federal law, minors (under the age of 18) cannot consent to a commercial sex act, so once this occurs, they are considered a victim of this crime.

Where are Traffickers Reaching Victims?

Traffickers often go to locations where they can reach vulnerable individuals. Some of these locations include:


Targeting youth online has become increasingly common tactic among traffickers. They will look for vulnerable
young people who are receptive to their advances.


Locations where youth may frequent such as malls, parks, concerts, community centers, public transit centers,
house gatherings, etc.


To potentially identify and intersect vulnerable students. Peer-to-peer recruitment may take place in schools.
This is when traffickers coerce or force their victims into recruiting their peers with promises of more payment,
better status, or less abuse.


Traffickers know that individuals at these locations are experiencing hardship and they can play to those
challenges by offering financial or emotional support to gain trust.