What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it’s happening right here in our communities in North Texas. It is the fastest growing trade today, worth an estimated $150 billion worldwide. Experts place the number of human trafficking victims between 21-29 million people, which means that more people are enslaved today than at any point in history.

In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines “Severe Forms of Trafficking in Persons” in two ways: 1) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such acts has not attainted 18 years of age; or 2) 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. Anytime a person under the age of 18 is involved in commercial sex, he/she is considered to be a victim of human trafficking. At its most basic, human trafficking is one person controlling another for economic gain.

However, few victims and survivors come forward for fear of retaliation, shame, or lack of understanding of what is happening to them. Due to its clandestine nature, it is difficult to determine reliable statistics related to human trafficking. Current estimates suggest that each year, up to 250,000 United States citizens and 60,000 foreign nationals are at risk for exploitation within the United States. In addition, 18,000-20,000 people are estimated to be trafficked into the United States annually.

In 2013, Texas ranked second in the number of hotline calls made to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). Traffickers are highly attracted to Texas for several reasons: it has long corridors of un-tolled highways that run north/south and east/west, a border with Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico, large international airports, and a diversity of industries. The I-10 corridor that runs through Houston is considered one of the main trafficking routes in the United States. Both commercial sex trafficking and forced labor are more prevalent in Texas and the wider United States than you may realize.

Victims of Human Trafficking

Who are the Victims?

According to the TVPA, victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:
  • Children under the age of 18 induced into commercial sex
  • Adults (18 and over) induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion
  • Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion

There is no single profile for trafficking victims. According to the Polaris Project, “…trafficking occurs to adults and minors in rural, suburban, or urban communities across the country. Victims of human trafficking have diverse socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may be documented or undocumented. Traffickers target victims using tailored methods of recruitment and control they find to be effective in compelling that individual into forced labor or commercial sex. While human trafficking spans all demographics, there are some circumstances or vulnerabilities that lead to a higher susceptibility to victimization and human trafficking.”

These vulnerabilities include:
  • Prior abuse and trauma, including domestic violence, sexual assault, war and conflict, or social discrimination
  • Runaway/homeless/throwaway youth
  • Foreign nationals with a lack of understanding of another nation’s laws and rights, language, or culture
  • Lack of education and resources
  • Cultures inclined  to use debt bondage and peonage
  • Unemployment or financial hardships
Human Traffickers

Who are the Traffickers?

Similar to victims, traffickers can be virtually anyone. Traffickers may be any gender or ethnicity, adult or minor, have diverse socio-economic backgrounds, and be documented or undocumented. Traffickers often use vulnerabilities to recruit and trap victims into both commercial sex trafficking and forced labor. According to the Polaris Project, “Often the traffickers and their victims share the same national, ethnic, or cultural background, allowing the trafficker to better understand and exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims. Traffickers can be…family members, intimate partners, acquaintances, and strangers.”

Traffickers may work independently or with a larger criminalized organization or international network to exploit victims for economic profit or material gain. They may promise their victims a better life, whether that be a loving relationship, a better education, or high-paying employment. They may also use physical, emotional, or psychological abuse to control others, creating a barrier for victims to leave the situation.

Examples of traffickers may include:
  • Brothel and fake massage business owners and managers
  • Employers of domestic servants
  • Gangs and criminal networks
  • Growers and crew leaders in agriculture
  • Intimate partners/family members
  • Labor brokers
  • Factory owners and corporations
  • Pimps
  • Small business owners and managers
Where Human Trafficking Occurs

Where Does Trafficking Occur?

Human trafficking can occur in all parts of the world and all across the United States. It happens in wealthy and developed nations as well as in underdeveloped and developing ones. Trafficking victims have been identified in major cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Human trafficking can occur wherever there is opportunity to make a profit. 

Sex trafficking may occur in, but is not limited to:
  • Residential brothels in hotels, motels, apartments, and houses
  • Strip clubs
  • Massage parlors/spas
  • Cantinas
  • Modeling studios
  • Pornography/On-line exploitation
  • Escort services
  • Truck stops
Labor trafficking may occur in, but is not limited to:
  • Agricultural and fishing work
  • Factory work
  • Restaurants
  • Nail salons
  • Domestic servitude in apartments and houses
  • Peddling/begging/traveling sales crews
  • Construction sites
  • Traveling circuses/fairs
Indicators of Human Trafficking

What are the Indicators of Human Trafficking?

Signs of human trafficking may be prominent in some cases and subtle in others. Here are some of the red flags to look for if you think someone may be a potential victim of human trafficking:

  • Signs of physical, emotional, or psychological abuse
  • Fear, depression, or signs of PTSD
  • Malnourishment or exhaustion
  • Threats to self or family
  • Live and work in dangerous conditions
  • Inability to move or leave job
  • Debt owed to employer
  • Signs of being controlled (someone speaking for them; escorting them to/from work)
  • No access to personal documents
  • Unexplained expensive possessions
  • Gaps in story
  • Tattoos/branding

If you or someone you know is a victim of trafficking, the NTCAHT can help! Members of the NTCAHT provide free and confidential services to any victim of trafficking in North Texas. For more information, or if you suspect human trafficking and would like to make a tip, please call the regional hotline: 214.823.1911 or the national hotline: 1.888.3737.888.

If you or someone you know might be a victim of human trafficking, call our free and anonymous hotline for shelter and access to services.

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