Human trafficking–also called ‘modern slavery’ and ‘trafficking in persons,’ is ‘the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion,’ according to the U.S. Department of State. The two most commonly identified forms of the crime are sexual exploitation and forced labor.
While victims can be of any age or gender, it is women and children who are most often sexually exploited, and males (men and boys) that are compelled into work. Trafficking victims may also experience other (often under-reported) forms of exploitation and abuse, such as forced begging or marriage, domestic servitude and even organ removal.
Because forced labor and trafficking are criminal ventures shrouded in secrecy, it is difficult to measure their economic and societal effects. Data published by the State Department, human rights organizations and other sources paints an unsettling picture of activity in America, where:
- An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year.
- The average age of trafficking victims in the U.S. is 20.
- Victims of trafficking are almost exclusively immigrants, and mostly immigrant women.
- Forced labor and trafficking are most prevalent in domestic service, agriculture, sweatshops, factories, restaurants, hotel work, and in the sex industry.
- At least ten thousand people work as forced laborers at any given time.
- The majority of trafficking cases have been reported in states with high concentrations of immigrants, including New York, California, and Florida.
To combat human trafficking inside and outside its borders, the U.S. government follows an integrated ‘3Ps’ framework of prosecution, protection and prevention. As a complement to this approach, officials began employing a fourth ‘P,’ partnerships, in 2009. These alliances are intended to inform the broader anti-trafficking/victim advocacy movement, and to facilitate the sharing of information, services and other resources between NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and law enforcement agencies.
What You Can Do
Anyone can join in the fight against human trafficking. But making a difference begins with awareness and education. Starting with the links below, we urge you to learn more about the activities and programs supported by frontline aid and assistance organizations. It’s the first step to help you get, be and stay involved:
- The Polaris Project
- Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign
- Immigration & Customs Enforcement
- Report on Human Trafficking (2020 Edition)
Another practical resource we recommend is the State Department’s “20 Ways You Can Help Stop Human Trafficking.” Tips range from simple to more ambitious, depending how much you want to do.