According to the Polaris Project, "Sex trafficking is the crime of using force, fraud or coercion to induce another individualto sell sex. Common types include escort services, pornography, illicit massage businesses, brothels, and outdoor solicitation."
In general, human trafficking is defined by action, means, and purpose.
Action: the manner in which a survivor comes under the control of a trafficker. This could be recruitment, transportation, provision of living conditions, etc.
Means: the manner in which a trafficker controls a survivor. This includes force, fraud, and coercion.
Purpose: the purpose of the actions and the means. For sex trafficking, the purpose is to profit from the forced sexual services of the survivor.
Who are the victims/survivors? While anyone can become a victim of sex trafficking, some people are more vulnerable than others. People with the highest vulnerabilities include:
Members of the LGBTQ+ community
People with a criminal background
People with unstable home lives (domestic violence, sexual abuse, foster living, etc.)
People facing economic instability
Men, women, boys, and girls
Who are the traffickers? In many cases, survivors know their trafficker. They could be a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, a domestic partner, an employer, etc. Sometimes, survivors begin trafficking others out of force or out of acceptance of the lifestyle.
Why don't survivors escape?
Traffickers employ a number of effective control tactics to keep survivors from escaping. These include:
Emotional abuse: convincing the survivor that no one else cares about them or they will have nowhere else to go; using the relationship as a weapon ("If you love me you'll help me")
Gaslighting: convincing the survivor that the situation is not bad and that survivor concern or trauma is unfounded
Threats/intimidation: threatening family members, threatening to release video/images of forced sexual services to family and friends, threatening to turn in survivor for other criminal charges, threatening bodily harm, etc.
Physical/sexual abuse: using weapons or beatings, forcing drug/alcohol addictions, using sexual assault to shame and control the survivor, etc.
Contrary to popular belief, physical abuse is not the main form of abuse. Many traffickers are so adept at manipulation that survivors do not realize they are a victim of a crime and see no reason to leave.
Someone unable to explain their living situation out of fear
Someone working in an industry prone to elicit activities (strip clubs, massage parlors, etc.)
Someone in a vulnerable category who cannot explain how they make money
Signs of disassociation, fear of a guardian, inability to speak freely, anxiety, etc.
Signs of physical abuse (bruises, broken bones, burn marks, lack of medical care, etc.)
How can I help?
If you know someone is being trafficked or sexually exploited, please call your local police department or 911. To report or get information, call: National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 This hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are FREE and confidential.
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