The average victim of human trafficking is raped 6000 times.
The life expectancy for sex trafficking victims is 7 years.
The odds of escape are 1 in 100.

Addressing trafficking at the root level also means breaking the cycle of poverty 
that causes many women and children to become vulnerable to traffickers. 

What Is Sex Trafficking ?

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines the crime of human trafficking as:

The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, enticement, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. 

The commercial aspect of the sexual exploitation is critical to separating the crime of trafficking from sexual assault, molestation or rape. The term “commercial sex act” is defined by the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act as the giving or receiving of anything of value (money, drugs, shelter, food, clothes, etc.) to any person in exchange for a sex act. Laws in certain countries recognize the effect of psychological manipulation by the trafficker, as well as the effect of threat of harm which traffickers/pimps use to maintain control over their victims.  


Who are the traffickers?

A trafficker is defined as someone who is involved in recruiting, harboring, enticing, transporting, providing, obtaining, or maintaining a person for the purpose of commercial sex acts induced by force, fraud or coercion. Since trafficking has rapidly expanded to become the number 2 worldwide underworld moneymaker (surpassed only by drug trafficking), it has caught the attention of many people looking for the opportunity to make quick, large sums of money. While drugs or weapons can be sold by a trafficker only one time, women can be sold by a sex trafficker over and over. Some women are raped as many as 40 times a day, becoming a revolving door of  profit for the trafficker. Although many victims are trafficked by mafia coming from a variety of countries including Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, and America, traffickers can also be independent operators or move in small group networks.

In certain countries where IF currently operates, local authorities are complicit in facilitating trafficking, with the largest funding of political parties coming from the cabarets where frequent trafficking occurs. Since these cabarets are major political party supporters, recommendations for changes in legislation to limit trafficking are rarely passed. Police in these countries  hold the passports of women entering the country as hostesses and barmaids, refusing to allow them to switch places of employment once the women realize that commercial sex is a required part of the position.  Employees are then required to submit to sexual disease tests every two weeks. Women who complain about work environments are deported without screening for trafficking in some countries.

While movies usually portray traffickers as men, women are also often operating as lead traffickers. The use of women  traffickers is particularly effective in countries reflecting Middle Eastern culture where women usually only associate with other women. Female trafficking victims naturally trust other women, making the danger of the situation look minimized.  


Where Does It Happen?

Sex trafficking is not limited to a single venue such as a commercial sex trade outlet. It occurs in private houses, apartments, spas, hotels, coffee houses, massage parlors, bars, and cabarets.

It's a global issue that is likely even happening in your neighborhood in the US, Germany, or Egypt. Trafficking also surpasses the distinction between wealthy and poor neighborhoods. In America, trafficking hot-spots that have been busted have sometimes been located in affluent neighborhoods situated  near convenient major highway systems used to transport victims between states.

Trafficking is a worldwide epidemic. 


Why do people get trafficked?

Although there are a number of causes of trafficking, the core reason trafficking occurs is because there is a demand for paid sex. Factors that make victims more vulnerable to trafficking include poverty, unemployment, lack of education, lack of opportunity, problematic foster care arrangements, war, deception, and lack of legal consequences for traffickers.

Trafficking usually has an element of deception at its inception.  Many girls are lured to other countries by the promise of employment, only to find themselves in debt bondage for their airline tickets, visas, and other traveling costs. These women are often held in locations by force. They frequently experience a "breaking in" period in which numerous men operating as  enforcers repeatedly beat or rape the women for a period lasting several weeks or longer. Other women are lured away on a dream vacation with their new boyfriend. Upon arrival at the vacation destination, the boyfriend sells the woman to a trafficker. Women are often told that their families will be harmed if they try to escape.

Victims also can be orphans or youth who have troubled foster care relationships. These vulnerable girls find traffickers waiting at their doorstep when they are released from an orphanage or runaway from a foster home.  In the US, experts have reported that within 48 hours of running away, an adolescent is likely to be approached to participate in prostitution or another form of commercial sexual exploitation (Spangenberg, 2001). 

Once on the street, homeless youth are at risk for being victimized because they lack the funds, interpersonal skills, job skills, problem solving skills, support systems, and basic needs such as food and clothing necessary to survive on their own.  The US Department of Justice estimates that the average age of trafficking victims in the US is between 12-14 .


Do all countries have laws against human trafficking?

The US Department of State writes an annual report called the TIP report  (Trafficking In Persons report) detailing the extent of governmental action to combat trafficking. This report details which countries have formal laws against human trafficking.  The TIP report places each country into 1 of 4 levels called Tiers.  

Tier 1 is the best score, although being ranked a Tier 1 does not mean that a country has no trafficking. Rather, it means that the government of that country acknowledges the existence of human trafficking, that it is making significant efforts to address the problem, and that it has demonstrated appreciable progress in combating trafficking each year. The other Tier titles are Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3.

The 2014 TIP report states that Tier ranking is based on the following:

  • enactment of laws prohibiting severe forms of trafficking in persons, as defined by the TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act), and provision of criminal punishments for trafficking offenses;
  • criminal penalties prescribed for human trafficking offenses with a maximum of at least four years’ deprivation of liberty, or a more severe penalty;
  • implementation of human trafficking laws through vigorous prosecution of the prevalent forms of trafficking in the country and sentencing of offenders;
  • proactive victim identification measures with systematic procedures to guide law enforcement and other government-supported front-line responders in the process of victim identification;
  • government funding and partnerships with NGOs to provide victims with access to primary health care, counseling, and shelter, allowing them to recount their trafficking experiences to trained social counselors and law enforcement in an environment of minimal pressure;
  • victim protection efforts that include access to services and shelter without detention and with legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship;
  • the extent to which a government ensures victims are provided with legal and other assistance and that, consistent with domestic law, proceedings are not prejudicial to victims’ rights, dignity, or psychological well-being;
  • the extent to which a government ensures the safe, humane, and to the extent possible, voluntary repatriation and reintegration of victims; and
  • governmental measures to prevent human trafficking, including efforts to curb practices identified as contributing factors to human trafficking, such as employers’ confiscation of foreign workers’ passports and allowing labor recruiters to charge prospective migrants excessive fees.

Tier rankings and narratives are NOT affected by the following:

  • efforts, however laudable, undertaken exclusively by non-governmental actors in the country;
  • general public awareness events—government-sponsored or otherwise—lacking concrete ties to the prosecution of traffickers, protection of victims, or prevention of trafficking; and
  • broad-based law enforcement or developmental initiatives.

Several countries in which IF currently operates are Tier 2 and Tier 3. This means that trafficking is widespread and there are either no laws against sex trafficking or laws are not consistently enforced.

In Tier 3 countries, women are frequently discouraged from testifying against traffickers or traffickers are pronounced by the court to be upstanding citizens. Court verdicts let traffickers walk away without consequence for kidnapping and commercially raping a girl repeatedly. In certain countries, police, government officials, and judges are complicit in aiding traffickers due to far-reaching systemic corruption and mafia influence. 


What Can Be Done To Stop It?

Combating trafficking requires a multi-faceted approach addressing a variety of root causes. An awareness of the fact that pornography drives the demand for sex trafficking is at the forefront of the issue. Law professor Catherine Mackinon accurately states, “consuming pornography is an experience of bought sex” and thus it creates a hunger to continue to purchase, objectify, and act out what is seen. B. Nolot, founder of Exodus Cry, asks, "What kind of culture is producing so many men who are willing to buy women and children for sex, contributing to a $32 billion annual human trafficking industry?"  "The same culture that produces and perpetrates a $100 billion per year pornography industry." When pornography is the source of sex education for our generation, the natural outcome is a culture of commercialized sex and sex trafficking. IF addresses the root cause of pornography through written educational materials and through public awareness training in public speaking venues. 

Addressing trafficking at the root level also means breaking the cycle of poverty that causes many women and children to become vulnerable to traffickers. Countries that have high levels of poverty often have corresponding high levels of trafficking victims.  For example, studies indicate that the Eastern European country of Moldova, which struggles with a high level of poverty, has as many as 10% of its women and girls trafficked. Currently, IF works with victims of sex trafficking in government safehouses (secret shelters for victims), with women transitioning from safehouses to half-way houses (transitional living with assistance), and with women who are living independently after trafficking experiences. In all these venues, IF has found that these women struggle to find and keep employment. With no source of income, some victims resort to prostitution to meet their basic needs. Although commercial sex was not their original choice (they were trafficked), unresolved emotional issues and inability to provide for their most basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing cause some women to return to what they have known: the commercial sex industry. What was once forced upon them has now become a choice, leading to the destruction of their self esteem, the destruction of their emotional stability, and the destruction of their soul .

IF addresses this root of poverty and lack of opportunity by offering job counseling, job interview transportation, new job skills training, continued job skills counseling, sheltered employment, financial management training, and emergency assistance with food and clothing.