The Exploitation of Children and Forced Child Labor or Human Trafficking
NEW! Human Trafficking of Children in the United States: A Fact Sheet for Schools [PDF, 156 KB]
Human trafficking is a serious federal crime. Federal law defines "severe forms of trafficking in persons" as: "(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or (B) 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,1 peonage, debt bondage, or slavery" [USC. §7102(8)]. In short, human trafficking is modern-day slavery.
The Extent of Human Trafficking in the United States
Human trafficking is a growing criminal industry. Contrary to common belief, it is not only a problem in other countries - cases of human trafficking have been reported in all U.S. states and territories. The victims of human trafficking can be adults or children, U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, men or women.
While data on child trafficking2 is difficult to obtain, a variety of sources provide estimates of the scope and nature of the problem in the U.S.:
- Child trafficking occurs in a variety of sectors, including prostitution, online commercial sexual exploitation, construction, domestic labor, illegal drug trade, and work in agriculture, meatpacking, construction, beauty salons, factories, and door-to-door or street peddling.3
- The United Nations estimates that "43% of victims [of human trafficking] are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98% are women and girls."4 As well, "32% of victims are used for forced economic exploitation, of whom 56% are women and girls"5
- Fifty-six percent of foreign victims of child trafficking are found in forced labor.6
- Children at a high risk of victimization include runaways, throwaways, and homeless youth - those who leave their homes voluntarily, are forced out, and have no stable home, respectively.7 Of nearly 1.7 million youth with a runaway or throwaway incident in 1999, an estimated 38,600 were at risk of sexual endangerment or exploitation during an episode of abandonment.8
- According to a 2001 study, 55% of street girls engage in formal prostitution about 75% of which is pimp controlled.9
- A 2008 study by the Dallas Police Department found that an average of 57% of high risk victims (repeat runaways or repeat victims of sexual abuse) became involved in prostitution.
Human Trafficking and its Impact on Schools
Trafficking can involve school-age children—particularly those not living with their parents—who are vulnerable to coerced labor exploitation, domestic servitude, or commercial sexual exploitation.
Sex traffickers target children because of their vulnerability and gullibility, as well as the market demand for young victims. Those who recruit minors into prostitution violate federal anti-trafficking laws, even if there is no coercion or movement across state lines. The children at risk are not just high school students—studies demonstrate that pimps prey on victims as young as 12. Traffickers target their minor victims through telephone and on-line chat-rooms, clubs, on the street, through friends, and at malls, as well as by using girls to recruit other girls at schools and after-school programs.?
Child trafficking is linked to a host of social issues including public health problems, the growth of organized crime, and decreased economic productivity due to lower education levels of victims. Its deep psychosocial impact on victims includes physical health problems such as malnourishment and sexually transmitted infections as well as emotional problems ranging from depression and anxiety to low self-esteem and behavioral problems.10 The spread of HIV/AIDS to victims of sex trafficking contributes to a public health epidemic,11 and the educational deprivation that many victims experience relegates them to the lowest rungs of society.
Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking*
- Unexplained absences from school for a period of time
- Inability to attend school on a regular basis
- Chronic run-away
- References to frequent travel to other cities
- Bruises or other physical trauma, withdrawn behavior, depression, or fear
- Lack of control over schedule or identification documents
- Hunger, malnourishment, or inappropriate dress (based on weather conditions or surroundings)
- Signs of drug addiction
Additional Signs that may Indicate Sex-Related Trafficking
- Sudden change in attire, behavior, or material possessions
- References to sexual situations or terminology of the commercial sex industry that are beyond age-specific norms
- Noticeably older "boyfriend"
- Promiscuous behavior and/or labeled "fast" by peers
Reporting Suspected Incidence of Human Trafficking
In cases of immediate emergencies, call the local police department or emergency access number.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 888-3737-888
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Call (1) to report a tip; (2) to connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or (3) to request training and technical assistance, general information or specific anti-trafficking resources. The NHTRC is a program of Polaris Project, a non-profit, non-governmental organization.
Department of Homeland Security: 866-347-2423
Report suspicious human trafficking activity to law enforcement 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 800-THE-LOST
The Congressionally-mandated CyberTipline is a means for reporting crimes against children including:
- Possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography
- Online enticement of children for sexual acts
- Child prostitution
- Sex tourism involving children
- Extrafamilial child sexual molestation
- Unsolicited obscene material Sent to a child
- Misleading domain names
- Misleading words or digital images on the internet
- Reports may be made 24-hours a day, 7 days a week online at http://www.cybertipline.org or by calling 1-800-843-5678.
Department of Justice Human Trafficking Office: 888-428-7581
Report suspected instances of trafficking or worker exploitation by contacting the FBI field office nearest you at http://www.fbi.gov/contact/fo/fo.htm or by contacting the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Office.