The Facts

imagesWhat is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage, or forced labor. They are young children, teenagers, men and women. Trafficking in persons occurs throughout the world, including in the United States.

Definition of Trafficking in Persons

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines “severe forms of trafficking in
persons” as follows:

  • Sex trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; and
  • Labor Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. In the TVPA, the term “commercial sex act” means any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.

How Victims Are Trafficked

Many victims of trafficking, particularly women and children, are exploited for purposes of prostitution and pornography. However, trafficking also takes place in diverse labor contexts, such as domestic servitude, small businesses, factories, and agricultural work. Traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to compel women, men, and children to engage in these activities.

Force can involve the use of physical restraint or serious physical harm. Physical violence, including rape, beatings, and physical confinement, is often employed as a means to control victims, especially during the early stages of victimization, when the trafficker breaks down the victim’s resistance.

Fraud involves false promises regarding employment, wages, working conditions, or other matters. For example, individuals might travel to another country under the promise of well-paying work at a farm or factory only to find themselves manipulated into forced labor. Others might reply to advertisements promising modeling, nanny, or service industry jobs overseas, but be forced into prostitution once they arrive at their destination.

Coercion can involve threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; any scheme, plan or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.

Victims of trafficking are often subjected to debt bondage or peonage in which traffickers demand labor as a means repayment for a real or alleged debt, yet they do not reasonably apply a victim’s wages toward the payment of the debt, or limit or define the nature and length of the debtor’s services. Traffickers may charge victims fees for transportation, boarding, food, and other incidentals; interest, fines for missing daily work quotas, and charges for “bad behavior” may be added. Debt bondage traps a victim in a cycle of debt that he or she can never pay down, and it can be part of a larger scheme of psychological cruelty.

Recognizing the Signs of Human Trafficking (forced labor or sexual trafficking)

Are you or someone you know being trafficked? Is human trafficking happening in your community? Knowing the red flags and indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need.

To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the
National Human Trafficking Resource Center
 hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Or text INFO or HELP to: BeFree (233733).

Suspicious Work and/or Living Conditions:
The person in question…

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior:
The person…

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior if law enforcement is mentioned
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health
The person…

  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control
The person…

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

The person…

  • Claims to be “just visiting” and is unable to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lacks knowledge of whereabouts and/or does not know what city he/she is in
  • Lacks a sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. Learn more at

More on Sex Trafficking
More on Labor Trafficking

Help for Victims of Trafficking

Prior to the enactment of the TVPA in 2000, no comprehensive Federal law existed to protect victims of trafficking or to prosecute their traffickers. The TVPA and its subsequent reauthorizations have worked to prevent human trafficking both in the United States and abroad, to increase prosecution of human traffickers, and to protect victims by providing benefits and services that will help them rebuild their lives in the United States.

Information about services for trafficking victims is available in the Victim Assistance fact sheet, the Certification for Adult Victims of Trafficking fact sheet, and the Child Victims of Human Trafficking fact sheet.

If you think you have come into contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.373.7888. The NHTRC can help you identify and coordinate with local organizations that protect and serve trafficking victims.


Reducing the Demand for Human Trafficking

Matt Fradd, Co-Author of Restored; True Stories of Love and Trust after Porn

Much like the illicit drug trade, human trafficking is ruled by economics.  The rules of supply and demand apply.  In order to put the traffickers out of business, we need to stop both the supply AND the demand.

The demand will always exist unless there is public dialogue and agreement that purchasing another human being for sex is wrong and is never consensual. The current public opinion demonizes the prostituted women as immoral.  This opinion needs to shift toward outrage to the consumers who purchase women for sex; only then will the demand for sex trafficking reduce.

Much of the demand for sex slaves begins with pornography.   The National Center on Sexual Exploitation works very hard to lead the movement, changing policies that contribute to sexual exploitation and educating the public on the issue.  Some of their projects include contacting the “Dirty Dozen” companies that contribute to the problem, supporting safe school libraries for our children and, when voting, taking into account how committed the candidates are to combatting human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Catholic apologist, speaker and author, Matt Fradd had a profound conversion to Christianity at World Youth Day in Rome in 2000, and has committed himself to inviting others to know Jesus Christ and the Church he founded. This year he expects to speak to upwards of 100,000 teens and young adults about the Catholic Church, explaining clearly and attractively her teachings on the dignity of the human person and the beauty of chastity.  Matt’s website has many resources, including ways to protect your children from porn.

By increasing people’s awareness of the dignity of the human person, we can reduce the demand for porn, which in turn, reduces the demand for women and children being trafficked.


Trafficking vs. Smuggling

Human trafficking and human smuggling are two separate crimes under federal law. There are several important differences between them.

Human Trafficking

  • Victims are forced, defrauded, or coerced into trafficking. Even if victims initially offer consent, that consent is rendered meaningless by the actions of the traffickers to exploit them for labor, services, or commercial sex.
  • Human trafficking is a crime committed against an individual.
  • Trafficking need not entail the physical movement of a person.

Human Smuggling

  • Individuals consent to being smuggled.
  • Smuggling is a crime committed against a country and its borders.
  • Smuggling involves the illegal transport of an individual across a national border. Smuggling is always transnational.