Human Trafficking May Exist in Your Neighborhood

Human trafficking affects 40.3 million of the 7.6 billion people in this world [1]. Human trafficking happens all over the United States every day, year-round, in small towns, suburban areas, large cities, and rural communities. The truth is not all human trafficking involves sexual exploitation, it may include the use of a person for free or forced labor. So let’s define the terms. 

What is human trafficking? 

Human trafficking is the exploitation of another person for one’s own profit. It is the crime in which force, fraud, or coercion are used to get another person to provide labor or engage in commercial sex.

What is sex trafficking? 

Source: Unsplash

Sex trafficking is what most think of when referring to human trafficking. According to the Polaris Project, a data-driven social justice organization that fights against sex and labor trafficking defines sex trafficking as, “the crime of force, fraud, or coercion to induce another individual to sell sex [2].” Any act of commercial sex is considered to be human trafficking regardless of consent, force, fraud, or coercion if the victim is under the age of 18.

People trafficked into sex work are forced to work in escort services, pornography, illicit massage parlors, brothels, and solicitation. It can also include online exploitation and forced marriage [3].

What is labor trafficking? 

Labor trafficking is less visible and severely underreported compared to sex trafficking. Labor trafficking capitalized on jobs where vulnerable workers, especially immigrants, are forced to work under threat, coercions, and inhumane conditions [4].

Source: Unsplash

A lot of the time this looks like work on a farm, in construction, agriculture, hospitality work, mining, factories, or restaurants.

Human trafficking happens here. It doesn’t just happen in developing countries. It happens right here in America. In our neighborhoods. On our streets. Everywhere. It just might not look like how we think.

Forced labor makes up 64% of human trafficking cases worldwide [5]. And while only 19% of victims are trafficked for sex, sexual exploitation earns 66% of the global profits of human trafficking [6]. 

Source: Unsplash

In the United States, human trafficking might look like a privately owned company that exploits migrant workers by forcing them into agriculture or construction work without the right safety gear or pay. It could be a local restaurant where kitchen staff, dishwashers, and cooks work more than 70 hours a week without adequate wages, sick leave, or paid vacation. Or it may be a local young boy or girl who ran away from home, is living on the streets, and is being sold for prostitution, sex online, or pornography.

We must pray for the Lord to open our eyes to see the ways in which people we walk past every day may be trapped in human trafficking. We must learn of the vulnerabilities that leave people ideal targets to traffickers. We must learn and take action in ways that make sense in our communities. 

So, how do we know if human trafficking is happening in our communities? 

Here are three things to look for to spot vulnerable people and trafficking in your community according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline [7]:

  1. A friend, family member, co-worker, or student seems to be newly showered with elaborate gifts or money. They may enter into a fast-moving romantic relationship with someone older or wealthier. 
  2. An employer refuses to give employees a signed contract or asks them to sign a contract in a language they can’t read. 
  3. An individual you know might be vulnerable to trafficking if they have an unstable living situation, are a runaway, have a history of domestic violence, or are involved in the foster care or juvenile justice system.


Let’s learn together and fight together. 

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you didn’t know.” – William Wilberforce

If you would like additional information read: The Typology of Modern Slavery: Defining Sex and Labor Trafficking in the United States by The Polaris



[1] Human Trafficking Hotline. Accessed 15 December 2021. 

[2] Polaris. Accessed 15 December 2021.

[3] The Exodus Road. Accessed 7 December 2021.

[4] Ecpatusa USA. Accessed 7 December 2021.

[5] Human Rights First. Accessed 30 December 2021.

[6] Human Rights First. Accessed 15 December 2021.

[7] Human Trafficking Hotline. Accessed 30 December 2021. 

Author: Victoria Fisher

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