Sex Trafficking

Over two hundred years ago, British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce tirelessly crusaded to protect innocent humans from forced bondage. His efforts led first to Britain's abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and finally to a prohibition on slavery in 1833.

The United States ended slavery with President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War. Or so it would seem. By the beginning of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt warned against the "white slave trade," which involved the abduction and forced prostitution of young women and girls. Although Congress passed the Mann Act in 1910 forbidding the interstate transport of persons for immoral purposes, the forced prostitution of women and children continues in the United States – and globally – to this day.

What is Sex Trafficking?

Sex trafficking is a specific form of human trafficking in which a victim is induced by fraud, force or coercion to perform a sex act for payment. One common scheme to seduce women is to promise them jobs overseas as waitresses or domestic servants. Once out of the country and away from their family, traffickers take victims' passports and subject them to beatings or rape to force them into their new "job."

In the United States, victims of sex trafficking are often young girls who have run away from abusive situations at home and are quickly picked up by pimps who coerce them into prostitution by promising food, shelter or clothing. Pimps tighten their control over the girls by getting them dependent on drugs. Other recruiting methods include befriending vulnerable-looking girls at malls, movie theaters and even schools. The recruiter could be a young man posing as a doting boyfriend or another girl who appears to be friendly.

How Widespread is Sex Trafficking?

The demand for commercial sexual exploitation flourishes around the world, fueled by prostitution and pornography.


  • In January 2006, Interpol announced that human trafficking generates $32 billion annually."INTERPOL calls for private sector to help fight human trafficking." 24 Jan 2006. INTERPOL.
  • The United Nations claims that the trafficking of human beings has surpassed the drug trade to become the second largest source of money for organized crime after the illegal arms trade.Gozdziak, Elzbieta M. and Mica N. Bump. Data and Research on Human Trafficking: Bibliography of Research Based Literature. Institute for the Study of International Migration. Georgetown University; Washington, DC. Sept. 2008. Pg. 13.
  • The U.S. State Department estimates at least 600,000 to 800,000 human beings are trafficked across international borders each year. Numbers within national borders are much higher.U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. June 2008. Pg. 7
  • Among all trafficking victims, 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children.Trafficking in Persons Report, Pg. 7.
  • Seventy percent of trafficking victims are forced into sexual servitude.Prepared statement of President George W. Bush to the National Training Conference on Human Trafficking. 16 July 2004.
  • UNICEF reports that more than 1 million children around the world enter the sex trade every year."Commercial sexual exploitation position statement." UNICEF UK. (2004, January 28).
  • Approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood to sexual exploitation over the past 30 years.Ibid.

United States

  • An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually from other countries.U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. June 2004. pg. 23.
  • Congress reported its findings for the Trafficking Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 that between 100,000 to 300,000 American teens are at risk for sex trafficking annually.U.S. Cong. Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005. PUBLIC LAW 109-164 – January 4, 2005. Pg. 2.

Despite an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the U.S., fewer than 1,000 victims have been assisted through the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement since 2001, when services for trafficking victims were first made available.U.S. Department of Justice. Report on Activities to Combat Human Trafficking Fiscal Years 2001 – 2005. 2006. Pg. 9.