What Is Human Trafficking?

What is human trafficking?

There are many misconceptions about human trafficking. According to U.S. federal law, human trafficking is defined as anyone of any age being forced or deceived into providing commercial sex acts or labor of any kind. No borders have to be crossed, no smuggling has to happen, and it doesn’t only happen in third-world countries. It happens everywhere.


Simply put, human trafficking is modern-day slavery.

And there are more slaves today than at any other time in history. Trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry in the world, after drugs. The demand for under-age sex providers is high–and so is the supply. The demand for cheap products made by slaves is high–and so is the supply. The good news, however, is that whenever oppression runs rampant, people rise up to fight.


View the 2015 report from the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking


What does a trafficking victim look like?

A person might be a human trafficking victim if s/he:

  • Is not free to come and go
  • Receives little or no compensation for work
  • Works excessively long hours
  • Does not have access to his or her ID, passport, money, or cell phone
  • Is not allowed to speak for him or herself; a third party insists on speaking for them
  • Is scared of law enforcement
  • Exhibits anxious, depressed, submissive, or defeated demeanor
  • Shows signs of abuse or neglect
  • Owes a large debt s/he cannot pay off
  • Is unable to say exactly where s/he lives
  • Was recruited under false promises regarding the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • Is involved in the sex industry and is under 18
  • Is involed in the sex industry and has a pimp / manager


Signs of domestic minor sex trafficking

A minor might be a victim of sex trafficking if s/he:

  • Has unexplained hotel room keys
  • Has numerous school absences
  • Has an unexplained tattoo (some pimps “brand” their workers)
  • Has false ID’s and lies about his or her age
  • Is dating much older, abusive, or controlling men
  • Has large amounts of unexplained cash, jewelry, or new clothes
  • Disappears for blocks of time
  • Lacks knowledge about the community or location s/he is currently in
  • Has a cell phone not paid for by parents or guardians
  • Exhibits fearfulness and an unwillingness to make eye contact


What do I do if I suspect trafficking?

  • Get as much information about the possible victim or sketchy situation as you safely can
  • Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline: 1-888-3737-888 or text INFO or HELP to BEFREE (233733)
  • If you or anyone else is in immediate danger, call 911


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