Frequently Asked Questions

What is Human Trafficking?...

Human Trafficking is modern day slavery. This is not a metaphor; it is the holding of people through force, fraud or coercion. The two most common kinds of slavery involve forced commercial sex or forced labor. It is usually a hidden crime and victims rarely escape or go to law enforcement for help. They are dependent on others to help them.

Isn’t this just another illegal immigration issue?...

 No, human trafficking can happen to anyone, including US citizens, such as homeless people, people who are in financial difficulty looking for a job that will make them quick money, runaway children or “missing” children or even children who feel upset with themselves, their families or friends. While victims often start as illegal immigrants, once they are held against their will, they become trafficking victims. Domestic minor sex trafficking which affects American children is now recognized as one of the major areas where citizens can make a difference. Often treated as criminals, delinquents or prostitutes, these children are de facto victims of trafficking under the federal law. Educating law enforcement, human service providers, doctors, teachers, parents and grandparents as well as children themselves is a way to prevent trafficking and to help those who have been victimized.

What’s the difference between trafficking and smuggling? ...

Smuggling is voluntary where a person pays another to help them enter a country illegally. Smuggling can turn into trafficking if the trafficker charges more than the victim can pay after the victim gets to the US and is thus forced to work to “pay off the debt”. Smuggling is a crime against the government. Trafficking is involuntary. The victim is either forced or tricked into bondage. The trafficker holds the victims’ documents, threatens them and/or their families and may physically or mentally harm them.  Trafficking is a crime against a person. Smuggling can turn into trafficking.

What’s the difference between sex trafficking and prostitution?...

Prostitution is a voluntary choice, although research has shown that most prostitutes have suffered sexual abuse or molestation as a child. Prostitutes can keep the money they make or have come to a business agreement with a handler from which they benefit. Prostitution is illegal in most states. Sex trafficking is illegal in all states. Sex trafficking victims are involved in the sex trade through force, fraud or coercion, though victims under the age of 18 do not have to prove that. All people involved in the sex trade under the age of 18 are considered human trafficking victims. Sex trafficking victims keep little or no money earned from their work. They are often controlled through threats, beatings or mental manipulation. They are unable to leave their situation. People involved in prostitution control whom they work with or service, how often they work a and their own money. Usually the number of people serviced as a sex trafficking victim is very high per day while a prostitute will usually only work to fulfill his/her own needs. Prostitution can turn into trafficking

Who are these victims? ...

80% of the victims are women and over 50% are children. Even labor trafficking, often considered a male dominated problem, is now considered to be dominated by women worldwide. In the US, 32% of all labor trafficking victims are women. Many female labor trafficking victims are also forced to perform sex acts for money. Most victims are so ashamed at what they have been forced to do or so fearful of U.S. law enforcement, they will not admit that they are victims. Not all victims are from another country. Many victims in the United States and other countries are actually citizens of that country. It is estimated that 32% of all American females involved in the sex trade in the US are minors. It is typical that the trafficker is from the same ethnic or national community as the victim: Americans prey on Americans, Mexicans on Mexicans and so on, but traffickers take advantage of anyone. They see these victims as commodities: easy to recruit, cheap to maintain, and readily replaceable. However, because this is such a highly profitable and low risk crime, traffickers are now targeting people, especially children, in their own communities.

How big a problem is it?...

Human Trafficking is a hidden crime. All statistics about human trafficking are considered estimates.

  • There are up to 20.9  million slaves in the world today according to the US Trafficking in Persons Report 2014. of that number 14.2 million are in forced labor and 4.5 million are in sex trafficking with the remainder in both. In absolute numbers, there are more people held in slavery today than during the height of the transatlantic slave trade.
  • An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders yearly, not including millions who are traded within their own country.
  • About 80 percent of these victims are females, and 50 percent are children.
  • Human Trafficking generates approximately $150 billion internationally annually, making it one of the top 3 international crimes, along with trafficking of drugs and guns.

What has been accomplished so far?...


  • In 2014, the National Hotline (888-373-7888) reported that 3,598 cases of sex trafficking cases. More than 929 labor cases were investigated. More than 40,000 victims have been recognized worldwide related to trafficking in the last year.
  • In the U.S. in 2012, 128 cases were prosecuted, charging 200 defendents. 162 were involved in sex trafficking and 38 in labor trafficking in 2012.
  • Some form of anti-trafficking legislation has been passed in all countries except North Korea and all 50 United States have anti-trafficking legislation
  • Areas with the greatest awareness efforts and proactive and trained law enforcement successfully investigate the most cases and resolve the most cases.

Where are the Victims? ...

  • In agricultural fields
  • In homes, working as nannies, maids, caretakers.
  • At restaurants, hotels, resorts, restaurants
  • In sweatshops & factories
  • At construction sites
  • At nail spas, massage parlors, beauty shops
  • On the street prostitution or in brothels, especially near military bases or migrant worker housing
  • In pornographic films, photos, on the internet
  • In your neighborhood, at the mall, at school.

Child Sex Tourism [CST] involves tourists, mostly men who go on “sex vacations”. US citizens can be prosecuted under US law even if their crime was committed in another country.

Why don’t they escape on their own?...

Victims may not know what city or state they are in and may not speak English. They have become reliant on their captors and are often moved frequently to escape detection and told to avoid relationships. Alternatively, they may be never let out of confinement They are often too frightened and do not think anyone would help them if they did escape. Often they are ashamed of what they have been forced to do and are afraid to return home. Foreign victims will often be blamed for their crimes, especially if they are undocumented. American victims will be told that they should have known better and will be blamed for not escaping.

How do traffickers control their victims?...

Remember the federal law states the Force, Fraud or Coercion are the forces used to lure and control a victim. Often Fraud is used first when a potential victim is offered love, safety, companionship, shelter or what she or he needs. Coercion comes into play when the victim balks at doing what is asked and Force enters when the victim is punished or threats to others are made. Victims under the age of 18 do not have to prove force, fraud or coercion.

Traffickers control their victims through:

  • Violence and Threats of Violence
  • Imprisonment or Isolation
  • Deception
  • Collusion
  • Debt Bondage
  • Religion, Culture or Belief
  • By alternating love and punishment, traffickers can often completely manipulate their victims.

How can I recognize a victim?...

Identifying victims takes skill and training. As a non-professional, you can look for the following clues in a person’s demeanor or situation. Do not approach the victim yourself. Call 911 or follow whatever procedure has been established in your community. If there is not protocol, find out why and organize to establish one.

  • Evidence of being controlled: physically  or psychologically
  • Evidence of inability to move or leave job
  • Poor working conditions
  • Bruising, branding or other physical signs
  • Overly dependent or fearful of boss, spouse or others around him
  • Fear or depression
  • Non-English speaking or not allowed to speak
  • Recently entered U.S. from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, Canada,  Africa or India
  • Observe nonverbal behavior: posture, facial expressions and tone of voice
  • Not in control of  identification documentation?
  • Child in public during school hours
  • Large age difference between the victim and the person with the suspected victim
  • Red Flag if a victim does not speak for him or herself

If you suspect that a person may be a victim, DO NOT attempt to rescue that person yourself. Call your local authorities instead and do it immediately or the National Hotline: 888-373-7888

What are the human trafficking laws?...

Federal Law: The Trafficking & Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)
- Designed to Prevent, Protect & Prosecute severe forms of trafficking

Article A: Protects against sexual exploitation for commercial purposes.  It covers people:

  • Forced, Tricked, Coerced or
  • Any Victim under 18 (even if not forced, coerced, etc.)

Article B: Protects against Forced labor:

  • Involuntary servitude
  • Personage/Debt bondage
  • Slavery

FORCED LABOR IS: 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 subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

Falls under Homeland Security, with responsibility in the FBI, ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) and the US Dept. of Justice (DOJ)

This law was updated in 2005, 2008 and 2012 and 2014. You can influence your state legislators to improve your state laws. You can also monitor the enforcement and updating of the law in your state if necessary.

What happens to the traffickers when they are prosecuted under TVPA?...

    • Sex Trafficking
    • Kidnapping
    • Sexual abuse
    • Death
    • Forced Labor
    • Trafficking into servitude
    • Involuntary servitude
    • Peonage
    • Conspiracy against rights

State laws vary which is why it’s important to get the federal authorities involved and to advocate for tougher laws in your own state.

What happens to rescued victims?...

Victims may be eligible for numerous benefits, regardless of immigration status. Victims from abroad are asked to stay in the country to aid in prosecution. A T-Visa allows trafficked persons residence in the US for 4-5 years, but can become permanent. Victims under the age of 18 have a right to “safe harbor” care in many states. They are to be treated as victims as their cases are considered. Since there is no case without a victim, victims need to be comfortable with prosecutors in order for a case to be made against a trafficker. Foreign children are issued a letter of eligibility entitling them to all the benefits available to refugee children. Most victims receive food stamps, medical and legal benefits and work permits, financial, health, counseling services. Some foreign victims choose to remain in the US, some choose to return home. Underage children need special care.

What are the needs in my state? ...

There are many resources for individual states, usually found on the internet under your state government webpage. Shared Hope International  and Polaris Project also reports state by state information

Summary of Current Florida Trends in Combating Human Trafficking: Source:...

Florida State University Center for Human Rights. For full report, go to: 
1. Labor Trafficking is one of the most prevalent form of trafficking in Florida: 1) Agriculture 2) Hospitality and Tourism.

2. Domestic Minor Trafficking is the other most prevalent and is the most under-reported and under-prosecuted human trafficking offense in Florida.

3. Sex trafficking remains a scourge throughout Florida: No longer just conducted within nationalities anymore, but is now “globalized”.

4. Sex trafficking is more complex and nuanced than previously thought. Investigators must really delve into the circumstances to understand the difference between prostitution and sex trafficking.

5. Psychological coercion against trafficking victims assumes many forms and should not be underestimated by law enforcement investigators. “Invisible chains” of threats, debt servitude.

6. Males are increasingly being identified as trafficking victims: Homeless men, foreign national males, gender roles resist the label of victim.

7. After personal safety, housing is the overwhelming need.

8. Fulfilling housing needs of U.S. victims can be more difficult than for foreign victims, especially for domestic minor victims of sex trafficking. Need for “Safe Harbor” law.

9. There is a need for proactive law enforcement work and evidence that it works.

10. There is a need for statewide intelligence database for law enforcement officials of trafficking leads and perpetrators: suspects, known pimps, businesses, brothel networks, labor subcontractors, current leads on cases.

11. Leadership from State Law Enforcement agencies (FDLE) is crucial.

12. Training of veteran law enforcement agents is required.

13. Training for Florida Prosecutors in using the Florida State Law is needed.

14. The Office of the Statewide Prosecutor needs to be more involved as every trafficking case has crossed judicial boundaries. Many involve organized crime, money laundering, violent crime and internet predators.

15. State Agencies need training as it pays off.

16. No matter how good law enforcement efforts are, trafficking can’t be eradicated with a “law enforcement only” approach.

17. Vetting for emerging community groups is necessary. Evidence of some scams and lack of knowledge can be detrimental to the many excellent groups and the work in general.

What can I read to broaden my understanding about human trafficking and slavery?...

Do a Google Alert on your computer. Go to, look for alerts and enter human trafficking or some aspect of trafficking, such as domestic minor sex trafficking or human trafficking in your state. You can choose how often you get information. You will be amazed at how many articles there are about trafficking. We also recommend reading books from our Read/Recommend/Act program. It is an up-to-date list of books that cover many aspects of trafficking. Go to our program page for a complete listing.

How can I help?...

Spread the word: slavery is here, now, but not to stay if we all do our part:

  • Organize your community. This is not a crime which can be avoided through ignorance or inertia or successfully fought without the efforts of law enforcement, human service providers and citizens working together. No one person can solve this problem.
  • Know how to identify a victim/criminal
  • Know who to call
  • Encourage police & government officials to work on this issue in your community
  • Use your skills and those of your colleagues to help by
    • Advocating for stronger laws, better training and enforcement
    • Assisting organizations dedicated to fighting slavery
    • Telling as many individuals about the crime as possible
    • Organizing awareness campaigns through your church, neighborhoods, service club, social       groups.
    • Educate youth about the problem.
    • Making a financial contribution to a group combating human trafficking, such as HTAP.

Statistics taken from State Dept.’s Trafficking in Persons Report 6/13, PolarisProject Policy Alerts and UN documents. All statistics are estimates as human trafficking is a hidden crime, hard to detect and measure.