Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking and is a form of modern-day slavery.  It is a serious public health problem that negatively affects the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker exploits an individual with force, fraud, or coercion to make them perform commercial sex or work.  Sex trafficking is defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” It involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to make an adult engage in commercial sex acts. However, any commercial sexual activity with a minor, even without force, fraud, or coercion, is considered trafficking. Understanding the shared risk and protective factors for violence can help us prevent trafficking from happening in the first place.

What are the risks and consequences?

This type of violence exploits women, men, and children across the United States and around the world. Trafficking victimization and perpetration share risks and consequences associated with child abuse and neglectintimate partner violencesexual violence, and youth violence.
Perpetrators of human trafficking often target people who are poor, vulnerable, living in an unsafe situation, or searching for a better life. Victims can come from all backgrounds and become trapped in different locations and situations.

  • Many victims are women and girls, though men and boys are also impacted
  • Victims include all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, citizens, non-citizens, and income levels
  • Victims are trapped and controlled through assault, threats, false promises, perceived sense of protection, isolation, shaming, and debt
  • Victims do not have to be physically transported between locations to be victimized

The consequences of sex trafficking are similar to the consequences of sexual violence. Consequences can be immediate and long-term including physical and relationship problems, psychological concerns, and negative chronic health outcomes.

How can we prevent sex trafficking?

Sex trafficking is preventable. Efforts have focused on increasing community awareness of human trafficking and addressing exploitation after it occurs.  To learn more about how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s, Recognizing the Signs website. More research is needed to evaluate programs and policies that help reduce factors that put people at risk in order to help prevent trafficking before it occurs. Strategies based on the best available evidence exist to prevent related forms of violence, and they may also reduce sex trafficking.  States and communities can implement and evaluate efforts that:

  • encourage healthy behaviors in relationships
  • foster safe homes and neighborhoods
  • identify and address vulnerabilities during health care visits
  • reduce demand for commercial sex
  • end business profits from trafficking-related transactions

CDC’s suite of technical packages can help states and communities take advantage of the best available evidence to prevent violence. Each package is intended as a resource to guide and inform prevention decision-making in communities and states.  Learn more about how you can get started implementing the technical packages in your violence prevention work.

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