Facts and Research on Human Trafficking

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How Widespread is Sex Trafficking?

Sexual exploitation harms millions of women and children around the world each year.

International sex trafficking occurs across national borders, requiring global cooperation to investigate, prosecute and convict sex traffickers and rescue traffic victims. The international nature of sex trafficking makes it extremely difficult to know how many people are actually being trafficked.  Here is some information to understand the breadth of this crime, internationally and domestically.

Internationally

  • Human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery. Estimates place the number of its domestic and international victims in the millions, mostly females and children enslaved in the commercial sex industry for little or no money3
  • Human sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. The majority of sex trafficking is international, with victims taken from such places as South and Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, Central and South America, and other less developed areas and moved to more developed ones, including Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America.4
  • Sexual exploitation is by far the most commonly identified form of human trafficking (79%), followed by forced labor (18%).5
  • The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls.6
  • Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa).7
  • A disproportionate number of women are involved in human trafficking, not only as victims but also as traffickers.8Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm.9
  • Although trafficking seems to imply people moving across continents, most exploitation takes place close to home. Data show intra-regional and domestic trafficking are the major forms of trafficking in persons.10
  • The demand for commercial sexual exploitation flourishes around the world, fueled by prostitution and pornography.

United States

While the dark world of international sex trafficking is becoming more well known, many people remain unaware that sex trafficking isn't just an international problem.  It happens in your neighborhoods, communities, at local truck stops – often masquerading as prostitution. 

The following information from Shared Hope International helps shed some light on the problem of domestic sex trafficking:11>

  • Human Trafficking in the U.S. is a 9.8 billion dollar industry.
  • Over 1.68 million American children run away each year
  • Up to 90% of victims are under the control of a pimp
  • Pimps commonly sell girls for $400 an hour or more
  • Kids are especially susceptible to the deception and manipulation of traffickers. Traffickers recruit at locations that commonly attract youth; like schools, malls, parks, even protective shelters and group homes.
  • Boys and girls can be victims.

Shared Hope International – Protected Innocence Challenge

The Protected Innocence Challenge is a comprehensive study of existing state laws:

Shared Hope International Fact Sheets

Shared Hope International FAQs

  • Is child sex trafficking happening in the United States?
  • What is sex trafficking?
  • What about the girls who choose prostitution? Are they victims of trafficking too?
  • Why don’t victims escape when they have the opportunity?
  • How do traffickers or pimps recruit victims?
  • What makes a child vulnerable to child sex trafficking?
  • What is the difference between a trafficker and a pimp?
  • Who buys sex?
  • How does pornography affect the trafficking industry?
  • What if someone I know is being groomed for trafficking or is being trafficked?