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.

Key Statistics (provided by the Polaris Project)

  • In 2015, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received 21,947 calls, 1,535 webforms, and 1,275 emails.
  • The BeFree Textline received 1,472 SMS messages.
  • Of the above signals, 5,973 referenced potential cases of human trafficking.
  • Human trafficking occurred in all 50 states in 2015.
  • 252 of the human trafficking cases reported occurred overseas.
  • In total, 25,696 trafficking cases have been reported through the NHTRC and Polaris’s BeFree Textline since December 2007.
  • More than 1,600 survivors of human trafficking reached out for help in 2015—a 24% increase over 2014.
  • The top venue for sex trafficking was commercial front brothels.
  • The top industry for labor trafficking was domestic work.