Sex trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. The term ‘commercial sex act’ means any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.
Victims of Sex Trafficking and What They Face
Victims of sex trafficking can be women or men, girls or boys, but the majority are women and girls. There are a number of common patterns for luring victims into situations of sex trafficking, including:
• A promise of a good job in another country
• A false marriage proposal turned into a bondage situation
• Being sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, boyfriends
• Being kidnapped by traffickers
Sex traffickers frequently subject their victims to debt-bondage, an illegal practice in which the traffickers tell their victims that they owe money (often relating to the victims’ living expenses and transport into the country) and that they must pledge their personal services to repay the debt.
Sex traffickers use a variety of methods to “condition” their victims including starvation, confinement, beatings, physical abuse, rape, gang rape, threats of violence to the victims and the victims’ families, forced drug use and the threat of shaming their victims by revealing their activities to their family and their families’ friends.
Victims face numerous health risks. Physical risks include drug and alcohol addiction; physical injuries (broken bones, concussions, burns, vaginal/anal tearings); traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting in memory loss, dizziness, headaches, numbness; sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, UTIs, pubic lice); sterility, miscarriages, menstrual problems; other diseases (e.g., TB, hepatitis, malaria, pneumonia); and forced or coerced abortions. Psychological harms include mind/body separation/disassociated ego states, shame, grief, fear, distrust, hatred of men, self-hatred, suicide, and suicidal thoughts. Victims are at risk for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, physical hyperalertness, self-loathing that is long-lasting and resistant to change (complex-PTSD).
Types of Sex Trafficking
Victims of trafficking are forced into various forms of commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution, pornography, stripping, live-sex shows, mail-order brides, military prostitution and sex tourism. Victims trafficked into prostitution and pornography are usually involved in the most exploitive forms of commercial sex operations. Sex trafficking operations can be found in highly-visible venues such as street prostitution, as well as more underground systems such as closedbrothels that operate out of residential homes. Sex trafficking also takes place in a variety of public and private locations such as massage parlors, spas, strip clubs and other fronts for prostitution. Victims may start off dancing or stripping in clubs and then be coerced into situations of prostitution and pornography.
If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National
Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.3737.888. This hotline will help you
determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources
available in your community to help victims, and will help you coordinate with local social
service organizations to help protect and serve victims so they can begin the process of
restoring their lives.