Introduction: What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is intertwined with many names, not only child sex trafficking but other forms as well.10,13,15 These include bonded labor, debt bondage, involuntary domestic servitude,31 forced child labor, child soldiers, forced marriage, labor trade and even organ trafficking. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)26 defines human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” The DHS states that the perpetrators may use violence, force, fraud or coercion to obtain compliance. Often there is a false promise of a well-paying job or a romantic relationship to lure victims into trafficking situations. Sex trafficking is more profitable than the sale of drugs or illegal arms.21 Sex trafficking perpetrators are reported to make approximately $120,000 or more off one victim yearly and most perpetrators have many victims, thereby increasing their overall profit dramatically. Most victims work for approximately seven years and then they are either replaced by new victims or many die from maltreatment and disease. Human trafficking is often confused with smuggling, which involves the consensual but illegal transportation of a human across a national border.16,21

Trafficking of humans is a $150 multibillion-dollar global industry that continues to escalate worldwide. Human trafficking is the second most profitable industry after drug trafficking.13,30 Legislation concerning child abuse has been in place for some time and has expanded to include human trafficking since many that are involved as victims of human trafficking are under age.1-3,13,19

Human trafficking is a human rights violation involving a large segment of women and/or children. This number includes males who are trafficking victims usually involved in labor work and sex trafficking. There is a large age span with all victims involved ranging from very young to very old. Human trafficking is being reported worldwide, and the suggested numbers within the United States are increasing yearly. The National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) defines human trafficking as the business of stealing freedom for profit; thereby, denying freedom to 40.3 million people worldwide.9 In 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline, run by Polaris, worked on 8,759 cases involving 10,615 victims and 5,000 traffickers with 1,698 businesses involved in trafficking.17,26 Since the Trafficking Hotline is involved with only reported cases, they state it is only the tip of the iceberg since most victims are not reported and continue to be used for many years. Other reports suggest that on any given day over 300,000 children are subjected to trafficking in various forms.19,33,34

According to current data and statistics, the United States is a prime area for trafficking in all forms with both of our borders, Canada and Mexico, as prime locations where we see an influx of victims brought into the United States from various parts of the world. Six out of 10 victims are from another country and have crossed over at least one international border.6 Human trafficking is an escalating problem in the UK and in Europe as a whole.11 Disaster locations and displacement of individuals promotes opportunity for trafficking. Nepal is an example cited where there has been an increase in reported trafficking after the recent earthquakes because of displaced children and adults.4 Although the problem with trafficking is an ongoing global issue, the displacement of individuals after these types of disasters increases human trafficking and creates an opportunity for the perpetrators to maximize exploitation. Displaced girls are taken from their homes and shipped to other areas for sex-trade. Women are especially vulnerable when displacement occurs; so are the elderly, marginalized caste members, widows and those with disabilities.3,18,28,32

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