Sex Trafficking Statistics | How Common is Sex Trafficking?

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Sex Trafficking Statistics 

Human and sex trafficking is a $150 billion dollar industry, spread across numerous business sectors. Sex trafficking accounts for 79% of all reported trafficking crimes, with women and girls being the primary targets of this type of trafficking. Awareness of sex trafficking statistics is one part of ending the system.

May 1, 2024
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It’s an uncomfortable truth: sex trafficking is on the rise. Despite efforts to stop it, sex traffickers continuously develop new ways to work under the radar of law enforcement and continue with these crimes.

Sex trafficking statistics are hard to pinpoint, and not every crime gets reported. Understanding how and where it happens can help spread awareness and help lower the human and sex trafficking statistics across the nation.

Key Takeaways

  • Sex trafficking statistics are hard to pinpoint, and not every crime gets reported.
  • According to a new study, there are over 1,000,000,000 people trapped in human trafficking.
  • Strongerthan.org offers holistic help to sex trafficking survivors by providing resources to help them heal and bring them justice.

What Is Human Trafficking?

Sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking or “trafficking in persons.” The United States recognizes two forms of human trafficking: forced labor and sex trafficking. Forced labor trafficking occurs when a person uses “force, fraud, or coercion” to force another person to perform labor or services.

Examples of where this may take place include but are not limited to:

  • Agricultural professions like farming or livestock
  • Factory work
  • Restaurant or meal services
  • Hotels
  • Massage parlors
  • Maritime work like cruises and other shipping vessels, boating, fishing, or dock work
  • Mining
  • Private homes (domestic servitude)
  • Drug trafficking

Anytime someone is forced to work a job by means of threats of physical violence, debt manipulation, withheld pay, or damage to their reputation it may be considered a form of trafficking. Additionally, abusers might rely on psychological threats, threats to a person’s loved ones or others, or through the use of drugs and/or other addictive substances. They’ll keep at it until their targets are in an abusive, forced labor situation that’s often difficult to leave.

Sex trafficking occurs when a person uses similar fraud, force, and/or coercion to force another person to engage in commercial (paid-for) sexual acts.

Places where this can occur include but is not limited to:

  • Private homes
  • Massage parlors
  • Strip clubs
  • Brothels
  • Internet

There are three primary ways we define and identify a case of human trafficking as defined by the United States TVPA and the UN TIP Protocol. These include definitions of acts, means, and purpose.

  1. Acts. When a person recruits, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, patronizes, or solicits another person for labor, services, or sexual acts.
  2. Means. This involves the trafficker’s use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain the person they want to traffic. This can include taking a person’s identification, withholding pay, threats of violence to them or others, damaging their public reputation, the use of addictive substances, or other means.
  3. Purpose. This element of trafficking focuses on the trafficker’s goal of coercing another person. The purpose differs depending on the type of trafficking that can occur and whether it is sexual in nature or not.

Keep in mind that the use of violent force doesn’t have to be present for trafficking to occur. It can happen through psychological manipulation and threats to a person’s well-being, the well-being of others, or the threat of a harmed reputation.

How Common is Sex Trafficking?

It’s not easy to get accurate US sex trafficking statistics or sex trafficking statistics worldwide. Many trafficking crimes go unreported, but in the United States, a new study determined that there are over 1,000,000,000 people trapped in human trafficking living in what has been defined as “modern slavery.”

There are a few reasons why pinpointing exact trafficking numbers is hard:

  1. Law enforcement personnel may not be properly trained to identify and report trafficking incidents.
  2. Identifying the actual survivors of sex trafficking may not happen until later in the judicial process.
  3. Trafficking may sometimes be reported as a different offense, such as prostitution.

In addition to ensuring our law enforcement officers are able to correctly identify and bring traffickers to justice, holding abusers accountable by reporting them and stopping them immediately is a primary objective.

With the help of a sex trafficking law firm, a survivor of sexual abuse can utilize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which entitles them to compensation from anyone who knew or who could have known they were enabling a trafficker.

How Does Human Trafficking Happen and Who Is At Fault?

The traffickers are not the only persons who may be at fault in a human trafficking case. Anyone who ignores, assists, promotes, or provides means to traffickers could be at fault.

A 2019 case against major hotel brands found that the groups engaged in gross negligence in failing to report on-site prostitution occurring at some of their chains. At one hotel in particular, a 15-year-old girl who had been drugged at a party was taken to the hotel and forced to engage in commercial sex acts for a week. Although her age and repeated visits should have been red flags to the hotel staff, no one reported it.

Although many hotel brands have held tightly to a privacy policy that they claim may absolve them from neglect, courts have consistently ruled otherwise. Considering that 60% of all people in sex trafficking report that they were forced to sell sex from hotel rooms, it’s unquestionable that some hotel companies, by not identifying key signs and taking action, have aided in the human trafficking process.

In some cases, the traffickers themselves may not be located and brought to justice, but individuals and third parties who have acted negligently can and should be held accountable.

How Many People Are Trafficked Each Year Per Industry?

Human and sex trafficking is a $150 billion dollar industry, spread across numerous business sectors. Pinpointing exact numbers is challenging, but some of the top industries where people are frequently trafficked include:

  • Hotels and Motels: The anonymity and privacy that come with securing a hotel room can make it easy for traffickers to move people through rooms and also offer commercial sex.
  • Illicit Massage and Spa Parlors: Like hotel rooms, illicit massage and spa parlors are places where traffickers can prey on people due to the availability of privacy.
  • Truck Stops: Truck stops provide the backdrop for trafficking by pimps and in the form of illegal brothels.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are numerous other industries affected by human trafficking.

Sex Trafficking Statistics Worldwide

Data collected from 155 countries determined that sex trafficking accounts for 79% of all reported trafficking crimes, with women and girls being the primary targets of this type of trafficking.

20% of trafficking survivors are children, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Worldwide human trafficking statistics can also be difficult to quantify. The ambiguity in the data is largely due to lack of reporting and confusion with other offenses. Other longstanding cultural barriers may prohibit the reporting of these types of crimes.

A view of a woman's back who has been branded with a barcode tattoo

Sex Trafficking Statistics by Country

Certain countries have higher rates of sex trafficking crimes than others.

Afghanistan tops the list for human trafficking, and researchers note that children are frequently forced into military service and commercial sex acts in this country. Algeria, Belarus, Cambodia, Chad, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Venezuela all made the list of the countries that see the most human trafficking in a new report.

Sex Trafficking Statistics in the United States

In the United States, it is estimated that a child is sex trafficked every nine minutes. Women and girls are disproportionately affected, representing 71% of all human trafficking survivors.

24.9 million people are trapped in human trafficking in the United States for forced labor, while 4.8 million people are trafficked for forced sexual exploitation.

Where Is Sex Trafficking Most Common in the US?

Some cities in the United States have higher occurrences of sex trafficking per capita compared to others. The following statistics are based on the total population of each city and give a trafficking rate based on the percentage of the population.

Human Trafficking Statistics by City:

  • Houston, trafficking rate of .44%
  • Las Vegas, trafficking rate of .08%
  • Washington, D.C., trafficking rate of .08%
  • Atlanta, trafficking rate of .08%
  • Miami, trafficking rate of .08%

The rate of sex trafficking in these cities is high, despite the fact brothels are not legal in any of them. In fact, commercial sex is only legal in ten counties in Nevada, and Clark County (where Las Vegas is located) is not one of them. Ironically, these cities are not located in the state with the highest occurrence of sex trafficking signals reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline; that title belongs to California.

In fact, some states with higher occurrences of sex trafficking didn’t rank among the top five cities.

Sex Trafficking Statistics by State:

  • California: 5,257 signals reported, 1,334 cases identified
  • Texas: 3,534 signals reported, 917 cases identified
  • Florida: 2,894 signals reported, 781 cases identified
  • New York: 1,662 signals reported, 404 cases identified
  • Ohio: 1,161 signals reported, 291 cases identified

These statistics are alarming, and most are based on data collected in 2021.

Sex Trafficking Statistics infographic

Child Trafficking in the US

Although all forms of trafficking are heinous crimes, the involvement of children is particularly harrowing. Child trafficking statistics are worrisome: In America, instances of child trafficking have been reported in all 50 states.

It’s again difficult to quantify the precise number of trafficked children. General estimates suggest that between 2010-2015, at least 1,400 traffickers were arrested in connection with the trafficking of a minor.

In cases that were prosecuted in 2020, over half of the survivors were children between the ages of 4 and 17. Nearly half of all survivors knew their traffickers prior to the trafficking incident.

It’s also vital to understand that the age of consent in the United States is 18. As such, sex involving a child under the age of 18 by an adult is considered statutory rap. Even in states where Romeo and Juliet laws exist, certain conditions related to consent must be present.

Where Is Child Trafficking Most Common?

Child trafficking can happen anywhere, but certain industries and venues tend to be more common. Although the term “trafficking” often makes people assume that the people are being shuttled across state lines or to different countries (which does occur) more than half of all child trafficking survivors are trafficked within their own countries.

Trafficking occurs more predominantly in hotels, truck stops, massage parlors, rest areas, public streets, and other places where a child can be easily lured away or abducted and quickly relocated (such as diners or restaurants near major freeways).

The rates of trafficking are on the rise, with the number of boys involved in human trafficking increasing five-fold and a tri-fold surge in the overall reported number of human trafficking occurrences.

Sex trafficking lawyers can help survivors of this abuse obtain resources for lifelong healing. If you are a survivor, contacting a caring human trafficking attorney may help your recovery.

Who Is Responsible for Child Trafficking?

Although the person or persons who trafficked a child are ultimately responsible for the crime, we cannot ignore others who are involved or who may have had information or knowledge of a trafficking incident and failed to report it. Sexual force (or threats of sexual force) is one way children are manipulated and controlled into forced labor, complicating child trafficking statistics by overlapping forced labor and sex acts.

Let’s take a look at abduction statistics. It’s worth noting that 41% of children who are trafficked are exploited by a relative. Over 67% of these trafficked individuals are between the ages of 15-17.

Children who endure trafficking often need help to regain their autonomy and to help them lead a healthy life. One part of their recovery is ensuring their trafficker and anyone involved with their trafficking is brought to justice. Hiring a sex abuse lawyer can help hold perpetrators accountable.

Conviction rates for traffickers are growing, with a 62% increase in convictions since 2011, but they are still too rare. Civil lawsuits are easier to win and when successful they help survivors get the financial means they need, which can fund housing and a better future. It’s also important to remember that vulnerable individuals are more likely to be trafficked. Hiring an attorney for sex trafficking survivors is essential for survivors to level the playing field against powerful institutions and attain the compensation they need.

Human Trafficking Recovery Statistics

Sadly, not many trapped by human trafficking are recovered. Globally, it’s estimated that only 1%-2% of trafficked children are ever recovered.

The 3P paradigm is used worldwide to help combat human trafficking and spread human trafficking awareness. 3P stands for prosecution, protection, and prevention. Many add an additional P for partnership. The first P, Prosecution, is important for effectuating change, like through means of civil lawsuits. A human trafficking law firm can help if you or a loved one has been trafficked.

Currently, only 27 states provide restitution for trafficked survivors, but the amounts are often very low. The sums are typically far less than one would receive if they pursued a civil suit. In California, for instance, survivors may only receive up to $10,000 per year for 2 years.

Retaining a sex trafficking attorney can ensure survivors are not limited to these low amounts and can help you get thefinancial compensation you need.

In addition, supporting programs like the Polaris Project can help spread awareness and help bring down institutions and powerful people who allow human trafficking to continue, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Transform your pain into your greatest strength

Sex Trafficking Statistics: Empower Yourself With Knowledge

There are organizations that offer assistance to survivors. For example, Strongerthan.org offers holistic help to survivors by providing resources to help them heal and bring them justice.

If you’re a survivor of sex trafficking, you are stronger than your past. Contact Strongerthan.org to get help, find resources, and begin your healing process. We can help ensure you have the opportunity to thrive once again by bringing justice to your story.

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