Rescue and Restore Victims of Human TraffickingHuman trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation 1 or forced labor. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women.

After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines "Severe Forms of Trafficking in Persons" as:

  • Sex Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act2, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person forced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years; or
  • 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.

Trafficking Victims

Approximately 800,000 victims annually are trafficked across international borders worldwide, and between 14,500 and 17,500 of those victims are trafficked into the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of State.  Other sources estimate that up to 27 million people are in some form of slavery around the world. These estimates include women, men and children. Victims who are generally trafficked into the U.S. are from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. Many victims trafficked into the United States do not speak and understand English and are therefore isolated and unable to communicate with service providers, law enforcement and others who might be able to help them.

Additionally, many victims of human trafficking are American women and children.  These victims are trafficked within the US, across state borders, within states, and even within cities and neighborhoods.  Shared Hope International released the National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in 2009, revealing that at least 100,000 American children are exploited in the commercial sex industry every year.  Because of a lack of education, training, and safe housing for victims, children are often arrested as criminals and placed in a detention center.

It is important to remember that although the word "trafficking" implies movement, movement is not necessary for a person to be considered a victim of human trafficking.  This could include victims of domestic servitude who are exploited and forced to work in a home and cannot leave.  Another example is children under the age of 18 who by law are considered victims of human trafficking if they are involved in any commercial sex act where a third party (trafficker) is economically benefiting from them.

Trafficking vs. Smuggling

Trafficking is not smuggling. There are several important differences between trafficking and smuggling:

Human Trafficking

  • Victims either do not consent to their situations, or if they initially consent, that consent is rendered meaningless by the actions of the traffickers.
  • Ongoing exploitation of victims to generate illicit profits for the traffickers.
  • Trafficking need not entail the physical movement of a person (but must entail the exploitation of the person for labor or commercial sex).

Migrant Smuggling

  • Migrant smuggling includes those who consent to being smuggled.
  • Smuggling is a breach of the integrity of a nation's borders.
  • Smuggling is always transnational.

Fact Sheets


1 "Exploitation" - rather than trafficking - may be a more accurate description because the crime involves making people perform labor or commercial sex against their will.

2 As defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the term 'commercial sex act' means any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.


National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline 1.888.3737.888