“Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. Men, women and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can become victims of this crime, which occurs in every region of the world. The traffickers often use violence or fraudulent employment agencies and fake promises of education and job opportunities to trick and coerce their victims.” (United Nations)
An important term to know is child sexual abuse material (CSAM), which is any image or video of sexually explicit content involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age).
From high profile cities in the United States to remote locations around the world, human trafficking is a relatively silent epidemic that impacts communities everywhere. For this reason, Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) operates internationally in seven regions.
Traffickers, just like other types of predators, usually target vulnerable populations. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, victims are likely to suffer from:
Psychological or emotional vulnerability
Lack of a social safety net
Forced Labor – victims are forced to work against their will
Sex – individuals are required to engage in sexual acts
Forced Marriage – victims are forced to marry another person without giving consent
Domestic Servitude – forced labor that occurs in a private household
Child Soldiers – minors are used as fighters in acts of war
Human trafficking statistics reveal a very sad reality for many individuals. Behind every stat is a person – someone’s mother, father, brother or sister. These stats provide insight into the severity of the issue.
Sex trafficking is the most common type of trafficking in the U.S. (Polaris)
There were 88 million child sexual abuse material (CSAM) files reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) tip line in 2022.
Child sex trafficking has been reported in all 50 U.S. states. (NCMEC)
Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry. (UNICEF)
Human trafficking is the second most profitable illegal industry in the U.S. (UNICEF)
The growth of technology has provided numerous tools to human traffickers, increasing the challenges faced by law enforcement and advocate organizations. One such tool is social media. These platforms are often used by traffickers to recruit victims because they provide direct and relatively easy access.
O.U.R. helps by offering resources to expand and amplify the anti-human trafficking and exploitation efforts of law enforcement.
Multiple organizations estimate that 500,000 predators are online every day, leaving minors vulnerable each time they access a social media account.
The following statistics are courtesy of ParentsTogether, a nonprofit organization providing independent reporting and commentary on issues that affect kids and families.
1 in 3 children are first exposed to social media at age 5 or younger.
1 in 3 children are expected to have an unwelcome sexual experience online before they turn 18.
Younger social media exposure correlates with more sexual harm online and peaks for kids who start using social media at 11-12 – the age around which most American children get their first smartphone.
43% of kids exposed to inappropriate sexual content online were under 13.
Kids with disabilities, special needs, or who identify as LGBTQ+ are 2-4x more likely to send explicit images of themselves than their peers.
The most chilling fact about these statistics is that they only reflect the reported numbers. Human trafficking lives in the shadows, meaning it is impossible to ever know how many cases are happening without being reported.
Protect your children from predators online with O.U.R.’s Start Talking: A Guide to Keep Children Safe Online.
With an estimated population of 335 million people (U.S. Census Bureau), the United States plays an important role in the fight against human trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 “equipped the U.S. Government with new tools and resources to mount a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to eliminate modern forms of slavery domestically and internationally,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. It also established three pillars in the fight: protection, prevention, and prosecution.
Additionally, the United States’ Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons publishes a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report annually. The U.S. Department of State describes it as the “U.S. Government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. It is also the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-trafficking efforts and reflects the U.S. Government’s commitment to global leadership on this key human rights and law enforcement issue.”
Agencies like the Department of Homeland Security work tirelessly to intercept traffickers and ensure justice for victims domestically and abroad.
On a global scale, the United Nations and International Labour Organization provide guidance in the fight against human trafficking. Both bring awareness to the issue and help provide standards and protocols that are recognized by most countries around the world.
The international community recognizes the importance of collaboration to end all forms of trafficking. Why? Because the numbers show an urgent need for those around the world to unite against predators. The issue is too large to ignore – too large to leave to any one government or entity.
Awareness is the first line of defense against any crime, including human trafficking. Once someone is made aware of the issue, they are better equipped to address it.
Additional steps to take:
Education – learn the signs of human trafficking
Take Action – join the fight with O.U.R.
Contact Authorities – report potential cases of trafficking
We lead the fight against child sexual exploitation and human trafficking worldwide.
Our work spans the globe as we assist law enforcement in rescue efforts and help provide aftercare to all those affected. While we prioritize children, we work to empower the liberation of anyone suffering at the hands of those looking to sexually exploit. We offer vital resources to authorities around the world and work tirelessly to raise awareness and meet survivors on their healing journey. Our resolve never falters, and we will boldly persevere until those in need are safe.