Human trafficking: Five things to know

It may seem like human trafficking is something that only happens in other places across the globe. The truth is, it’s happening much closer than we think—possibly to children in, and from, our communities.

Urban Strategies is committed to working with you, your neighborhood, and community to ensure our most vulnerable have access to resources for better and healthier lifestyles.

Read on for five key facts on human trafficking and how you can help make a difference—today.

Fact One: There are two types of human trafficking happening in the U.S.

The United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines human trafficking as the exploitation of one human being by another, for personal or financial gain. There are two types of trafficking: trafficking for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation sex and labor trafficking.

Sex trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act, which is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. Sometimes, these victims are younger than 18.

The second type of trafficking is labor trafficking. It also involves recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person, but for labor or services. It usually happens through force or fraud and results in involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.

Fact Two: Human trafficking occurs in legal and illegal industries.

According to the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report:
“Trafficking can occur in many licit and illicit industries or markets, including in brothels, massage parlors, street prostitution, hotel services, hospitality, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, construction, health and elder care, and domestic service.”

Fact Three: Vulnerable child populations are at a higher risk of becoming trafficking victims.

From north to south, east to west, human trafficking is a crime plaguing our country and some of the most vulnerable victims being trafficked are, our children. Reports show that, overwhelmingly, children who are runaways, in the foster care system or on welfare are the most vulnerable.

Fact Four: Child trafficking is happening in our backyard.

Since 2003 over 2,100 child victims have been recovered through the FBI’s Innocent Lost Operation. In July 2012, 79 child victims were recovered, and over 100 traffickers arrested, during that same operation.

Although most cases of child trafficking have been identified as sex trafficking, children have sometimes been exploited for labor*. Some of the Federal U.S. cases include:

    • Children being trafficked to work 14-hour days braiding hair in salons in New Jersey;
    • A 10-year-old girl who was forced to do housework 16 hours a day without payment in the state of California; and
    • The MS-13 gang exploiting a 12-year-old runaway for commercial sex in Virginia.

Trafficking of children can happen in any setting across the country, be it rural or urban, although at risk populations for human trafficking tend to come from impoverished and vulnerable communities — in particular, runaways and foster care youth. However, there has also been an increase in victims of trafficking in the affluent suburbs of the US.

At-risk populations include children who have suffered abuse or neglect at home. These children are more vulnerable to being trafficked then children who came from a home with a strong family nucleus.

In a report by the California Child Welfare Council, 50% to 80% of commercially sexually exploited victims were in the child welfare system. In Connecticut, a report from the Department of Children and Families found 86 out of 88 children involved in sex trafficked had also been part of the child welfare system. Children in the welfare system are at increased risk of being trafficked.

* Source: US DHHS Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) Guidance to States and Services on Addressing Human Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United Sates

Fact Five: You can make a difference.

Some of the practical ways community members can protect their children are:

    • Be aware – Human trafficking is happening everywhere. Look at the resources below to see how you can help raise awareness about this issue in your local community.
    • Be alert – Report any suspicious activity to your local law enforcement or child protective services.
    • Be engaged – Engage with your local or state task force to see how you can be part of combatting trafficking.

For more information and resources on combatting human trafficking please see:

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