Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex or forced labor. They are young children, teenagers, men and women. Trafficking in persons occurs throughout the world, including in the United States.

Many victims of human trafficking are forced to work in prostitution or the sex entertainment industry, but trafficking also occurs in forms of labor exploitation in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Victims of labor trafficking who have been identified in the United States include domestic servants, restaurant staff, hotel employees, factory workers and agricultural laborers.

Traffickers use various techniques to control their victims and keep them enslaved. Some traffickers hold their victims under lock and key. However, the more frequent practice is to use less obvious techniques including:

  • Debt bondage – enormous financial obligations or undefined/increasing debt
  • Isolation from the public - limiting contact with outsiders and making sure that any contact is monitored or superficial in nature
  • Isolation from family members and members of their ethnic and religious community
  • Confiscation of passports, visas and/or identification documents
  • Use or threat of violence toward victims and/or family members
  • The threat of shaming victims by exposing circumstances to family
  • Telling victims they will be imprisoned or deported for immigration violations if they contact authorities
  • Control of the victims' money - e.g., holding their money for "safe-keeping"

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its reauthorizations in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013 define “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as:

  • Sex trafficking [i.e., the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act] in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or
  • The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. 

A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.


Additional Information