Shining Light on the Darkness of Human Trafficking


Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry where perpetrators profit from the control and exploitation of others. It’s modern slavery. It is estimated that there are more than 27.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. Anyone is at risk of being trapped into human trafficking through the means of force, fraud, or coercion.

Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion.

The situations that sex trafficking victims face may vary. Many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces or manipulates them into sex work. Others are lured in with false promises of a job, such as modeling or dancing. Many are forced to sell sex by their parents or other family members. Victims may be involved in a trafficking situation for a few days or weeks, or may remain in the same trafficking situation for years.

Victims of sex trafficking can be U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, women, men, children, and LGBTQ individuals. Vulnerable populations are frequently targeted by traffickers, including runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war, or social discrimination.

Sex trafficking occurs in a range of venues including fake massage businesses, via online ads or escort services, in residential brothels, on the street or at truck stops, or at hotels and motels. Learn the signs so that you can help stop the victimization of women and girls.


Grooming is a process of identifying and engaging a minor in sexual activity. It involves an imbalance of power and elements of coercion and manipulation. It is having the motivation and intent to sexually exploit the minor.


Predators typically target minors with obvious vulnerabilities:
» Unpopular
» Feels Unloved
» Often Unsupervised
» Experiencing Family Problems
» Seeking Attention and Friendship
» Low Self-Esteem and Lack of Confidence
» Isolated from Peers – Spends Time Alone


» Predator is Complimentary
» Exhibits Interest in the Child
» Learns Child’s Habits, Likes, Dislikes
» Typically Presents Self Positively to Child
» Pretends to Share Common Interest, Backgrounds, Experiences, Etc.


The perpetrator’s goal is to make a victim by increasing access to the victim and decreasing the likelihood of their intent being discovered by others, including the victim. The perpetrator’s goal is also to make the potential victim feel comfortable enough to be close with the offender, to be alone with the offender, and to keep the sexual behavior a secret.

Grooming is a process that typically consists of the following steps:

» Building Trust and Breaking Down Minor’s Defenses

» Pretend to Share Common Interests, Backgrounds,
   Experiences, Etc.
» Give Gifts as Tokens of Friendship
» Play Games
» Give Rides
» Provide Access to Valuable Items, Privileges, or Activities Typically
   Unavailable or Off Limits
» Flatter and Make Minor Feel Special and Somehow Indebted
» Offer a Sympathetic and Understanding Ear (i.e., “No One
    Understands You Like I Do”; “I Am Here for You”; “I Know What
    That’s Like”, Etc.)
» Reassuring to the Family
    » Strike up Relationships with Parents (Single Parent Families
        Are Prime Targets)
    » Attempt to Gain Trust or Take Advantage of the Trust of the
       Child’s Parents or Care-Providers
    » Behave in Exemplary Ways to Alleviate Concerns or Possible
» Gradual Erosion of Boundaries
» Inappropriate Escalating Physical Contact, Such as:
    » Hugging or Touching Non-Threatening Areas of Body (i.e., Hand
       Holding, Rubbing Back, Caressing Hair, Etc.)
    » Pretending to Accidentally Touch or Brush up against Minor
    » Positioning Self in Close Proximity to Minor (i.e., Sleep in the
       Same Bed)
    » Engage Minor in Non-Sexual Inappropriate Behaviors (i.e.,
       Drinking Alcohol)
    » Touching and Fondling Inappropriate Areas of the Body
       Construct Secrecy with Minor
    » Make Minor Fearful That He or She Will Be in Trouble If Their
       Activities Together Are Discovered
    » Tell Minor That Touching Between Them Is Good; Their
        Relationship Is Special
    » Tell Minor There Will Be Consequences If They Report Behavior
       (i.e., “We No Longer Can Be Friends”, “Your Family Will Hate
       You”, Etc.)
» Working to Secure Compliance
    » Escalate Intrusiveness of Sexual Behaviors over Time
    » Manipulate Minor into Performing or Permitting Desired Sex Act
    » Threaten to Harm Minor or Some Person Important to Minor If
       They Do Not Comply

Learn more about human trafficking from the following organizations:

• U.S. Department of Justice
Learn More »

 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Human Trafficking
Learn More »

• Federal Bureau of Investigation, Investigative Programs, Crimes
Against Children

Learn More »

• Polaris Project
Learn More »

• National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Learn More »

 U.S. Department of State, Office
to Monitor and Combat Trafficking
in Persons

Learn More »

• United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime
Learn More »

• Faith Alliance Against
Slavery and Trafficking
Learn More »

• U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking
Learn More »