What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons or modern-day slavery, is a crime that involves the exploitation of a person for the purpose of compelled sex or labor.

There is no single profile of a trafficking victim. Victims of human trafficking can be anyone—regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, education level, or citizenship status. Any person under the age of 18 who is engaged in commercial sex acts, regardless of the use of force, fraud, or coercion, is a victim of human trafficking, even if they appear to consent to the commercial sex act.

Although there is no defining characteristic that all human trafficking victims share, traffickers frequently prey on individuals who are poor, vulnerable, living in an unsafe situation, or are in search of a better life. In the United States, some of the most vulnerable populations include American Indian/Alaska Native communities, lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-questioning individuals, individuals with disabilities, undocumented immigrants, runaway and homeless youth, and low-income individuals. These victims are deceived by false promises of love, a good job, or a stable life and are lured or forced into situations where they are made to work under deplorable conditions with little or no pay.

Just as there is no one type of trafficking victim, perpetrators of this crime also vary. Traffickers can be foreign nationals or U.S. citizens, family members, partners, acquaintances, and even strangers. People often incorrectly assume that all traffickers are males; however, several cases in the United States have revealed that women can also be traffickers. Traffickers can be pimps, gang members, diplomats, business owners, labor brokers, and farm, factory, and company owners.

Victims can be found in legal and illegal labor industries, including child care, elder care, the drug trade, massage parlors, hair salons, restaurants, hotels, factories, and farms. In some cases, victims are hidden behind doors in domestic servitude in a home. Others are in plain view, interact with people on a daily basis, and are forced to work under extreme circumstances in exotic dance clubs, factories, or restaurants. These conditions exist across the United States.

Human trafficking is a complex issue. Providing comprehensive and specialized services that address specific needs of all victims of human trafficking is a priority of OVC human trafficking efforts.

LINKS for more information on Human Trafficking:

More information on Human Trafficking from the Office of Victims of Crime

National Human Trafficking Resource Center

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