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Definition of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain.

Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States. It is estimated that human trafficking is a $32 billion per year industry, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.

Human trafficking is a hidden crime, as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement. 

Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are vulnerable for a variety of reasons, including economic hardship, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.

Traffickers often operate by:

  • Using violence or threatening the person or the person’s family members;
  • Harming or depriving the person of basic necessities, such as food, water, or sleep;
  • Making false promises of love or companionship; 
  • Making false promises of a good job and home;
  • Restricting contact with friends or family;
  • Limiting freedom of movement;
  • Controlling the person’s identification documents;
  • Threatening deportation or law enforcement action;
  • Garnishing the person’s salary to pay off alleged debts; and/or
  • Preventing the victim from attending religious services.
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