What is Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the illegal transport of human beings whose services — such as manual labor, domestic servitude or commercial sex acts — are sold for profit. Human trafficking victims engage in these acts via force. They are recruited or sold into involuntary servitude.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), every country in the world is affected by human trafficking.

The Consequences of Human Trafficking

The emotional and psychological toll is devastating for victims of human trafficking, resulting in depression, suicidal thoughts and social anxiety disorders. But there are physical scars, too, such as:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea and chlamydia)
  • Other infectious diseases (e.g., tuberculosis)
  • Poor eyesight
  • Infertility
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

Human Trafficking Statistics

Human trafficking exists in every country, and the cases are not isolated incidents.

  • 199,0003 human trafficking-related crimes occur in the United States each year.
  • $150 billion4 is annually generated by forced labor worldwide.
  • .04%5 of human trafficking cases are reported to the proper authorities.
  • 24.9 million6 people are trapped in forced labor conditions worldwide at any given time.
  • 34%1 of human trafficking cases involve children.

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What Are the Different Types of Human Trafficking?

There are several types of human trafficking, but according to the Human Rights Commission of San Francisco, three are the most common:

What Are the Causes of Human Trafficking?

There are many causes of human trafficking. Money fuels the industry. In fact, human trafficking produces $150 billion annually7. Power is another motivator, just as it’s a major contributor to domestic violence.

Limited law enforcement also provides an opportunity for human trafficking to flourish. Without strong law enforcement agencies, anti-trafficking task forces or effective criminal justice systems, criminals aren't held accountable for their actions.

Human trafficking doesn’t always start with abduction or force. Financial desperation is often a factor.

With no way of supporting themselves or their families, parents, caregivers or other family members may fall prey to schemes that exploit their hopes and falsely promise jobs, training or better opportunities.

Other contributors to human trafficking include political instability, war or civil unrest, cultural norms and officials harboring criminals (i.e., corruption).

How to Prevent Human Trafficking?

Every action matters when it comes to fighting modern-day slavery. Key ways to contribute include:

  • Knowing the signs and red flags of trafficking.
  • Calling the national human trafficking hotline if you have concerns about a potential trafficking situation.
  • Contacting lawmakers about strengthening enforcement measures and laws (like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act).
  • Volunteering with or donating to an anti-trafficking organization.
  • Staying informed and talking about the issue with friends and family.
  • Hosting an awareness event or community forum.
  • Forgoing the purchase of goods or products produced by children or forced labor.
  • Using your skills to train or hire survivors and helping them transition to life after trafficking.

Preventing Human Trafficking Before It Starts

The best approach to putting a stop to human trafficking is to prevent it before it starts. Compassion partners with thousands of local churches in low- and middle-income countries to identify impoverished children who are especially vulnerable to exploitation.

Our Child Sponsorship Program helps combat violence against children, sexual exploitation, abuse, neglect and child trafficking by expanding the circle of caring adults actively participating in a child’s life. This fosters an environment where the child is known, loved and protected.

The support, care and attention our volunteers provide makes children less vulnerable to criminals who are soliciting, recruiting or abducting. Safe adults can identify dangerous situations or warning signs, protecting each child.

We believe that child protection is central to God’s heart. So, we consider the love, care, and protection of children our top priorities.

If you’re wondering how to prevent human trafficking, there’s a simple answer: Sponsor a vulnerable child to provide the protection they need to overcome.

Help Us Prevent Human Trafficking. Sponsor a Vulnerable Child Today!

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1 UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.20.IV.3).

2 “Child Trafficking Statistics.” Child Liberation Foundation, 20 Apr. 2020, https://liberatechildren.org/child-trafficking-statistics.

3 Human Trafficking Statistics by State 2022, https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/human-trafficking-statistics-by-state.

4 Profits and poverty: the economics of forced labour / International Labour Office. - Geneva: ILO, 2014

5 “11 Facts about Human Trafficking.” DoSomething.org, https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-human-trafficking#fnref3.

6 “About Human Trafficking - United States Department of State.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, 19 Jan. 2022, https://www.state.gov/humantrafficking-about-human-trafficking/.

7 “What Fuels Human Trafficking?” UNICEF USA, 13 Jan. 2017, https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/what-fuels-human-trafficking/31692.