What is Human Trafficking?

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Human trafficking is a type of modern-day slavery that exploits victims for purposes of forced labor or a commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion.

Human trafficking is often a hidden crime. Fear of police, fear of the trafficker, and language barriers combined with unfamiliarity of local geography and legal protections prevent victims from reaching out for help.

According to federal law, any minor under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion.

The average age a victim enters trafficking is 11 to 14 years old.

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (22 USC § 7102).

Labor Trafficking

Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, (22 USC § 7102).

Typical Industries for Sex Trafficking

Typical Industries for Labor Trafficking

Signs of Human Trafficking

  • Claims of being a visitor to area and ambiguity about where they are staying.
  • Unaware of the city they are in.
  • Scripted or inconsistent stories, often confusing.
  • Employer refusing to give a contract or asking someone to sign a contract in a language they cannot understand.
  • Worker “fees” for the chance to work in a particular job.
  • Recruitment for a job opportunity that would take a person away from home without details about the position or where it will be located.
  • Working extremely long and unusual hours.
  • Pay- Not being paid directly. Paid very little or only in tips. Having to work a “finder’s fee” debt off before getting paid.  
  • Inability to come and go at will.
  • High security at the workplace or home: blacked out windows, barbed wire, excessive security cameras.

It’s important to know the story of the individual when assessing signs of human tracking. Cultural differences and “red flags”  must be considered in context,  not as absolute verification of trafficking. Paying attention to the people in our lives is our biggest resource in spotting trafficking.

Who Is At Risk?

Victims can include all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, and income levels. While it’s true that “anyone” can be trafficked, just as anyone can be a victim of a crime, perpetrators of human trafficking prey on vulnerable poplulations.

People you know who may be vulnerable to human trafficking:

  • Have a history of being in the foster care or juvenile justice system.
  • Have a history of domestic or sexual abuse
  • Have an unstable living situation
  • Living in poverty 
  • Addicted to drugs and alcohol
  • Living with family members that are addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • Are undocumented immigrants


National Human Trafficking Hotline

Homeland Security - Blue Campaign

Department of Justice- OVC

Missouri Attorney General

Polaris Project - Data & Research

Shared Hope - Research & Resources


National Human Trafficking Hotline Resource Center

An online resource consisting of anti-trafficking organizations and programs that offer emergency, transitional, or long-term services to victims and survivors.  Call toll-free (24/7 Confidential)


Text: 233733


National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC)

To report sexually exploited or abused minors, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST, or report incidents at http://www.cybertipline.org.


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