If you need help
For more information or to get help, please call:
Or The National Human Trafficking Hotline at:
1-888-373-7888 or text: 233733
What is Human Trafficking?
U.S. law defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor against their will.
Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the 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 (22 USC § 7102).
Who is vulnerable?
Human trafficking can happen to anyone, but people are often targeted because of their vulnerabilities, and we know that certain people are more vulnerable than others. Significant risk factors include recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, homelesness, past experiences of abuse or neglect, being LGBTQIA2S+, in addition to others . Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency.
Who are the traffickers?
Perpetrators of human trafficking span all racial, ethnic and gender demographics and are as diverse as survivors. They include individuals, business owners, members of a gang or network, parents or family members of victims, intimate partners, owners of farms or restaurants, and powerful corporate executives and government representatives. One thing they all have in common is that they are usually someone that the victim knows and trusts.
How do traffickers control victims?
Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, the most common include physical and emotional abuse and threats, isolation from friends and family, and economic abuse. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for a myriad of reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or threats to themselves or their family.
Who are the survivors?
Victims and survivors of human trafficking also span all racial, ethnic and gender identities, but folks with certain vulnerabilities can be more susceptible to being targeted.
MYTH: Traffickers target victims they don’t know
Many survivors have been trafficked by romantic partners, including spouses, and by family members, including parents.
MYTH: Only women and girls can be victims and survivors of sex trafficking.
Men and boys are also victimized by sex traffickers. LGBTQ boys and young men are seen as particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
MYTH: Only undocumented foreign nationals get trafficked in the United States.
Polaris has worked on thousands of cases of trafficking involving foreign national survivors who are legally living and/or working in the United States. These include survivors of both sex and labor trafficking.
MYTH: Human trafficking is always or usually a violent crime.
The most pervasive myth about human trafficking is that it often involves kidnapping or physically forcing someone into a situation. In reality, most traffickers use psychological means such as, tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor.
MYTH: People being trafficked are physically unable to leave their situations/locked in/held against their will.
That is sometimes the case. More often, however, people in trafficking situations stay for reasons that are more complicated. Some lack the basic necessities to physically get out – such as transportation or a safe place to live. Some are afraid for their safety. Some have been so effectively manipulated that they do not identify at that point as being under the control of another person.
MYTH: All commercial sex is human trafficking.
All commercial sex involving a minor is legally considered human trafficking. Commercial sex involving an adult is human trafficking if the person providing commercial sex is doing so against his or her will as a result of force, fraud or coercion.
MYTH: If the trafficked person consented to be in their initial situation, then it cannot be human trafficking or against their will because they “knew better”.
Initial consent to commercial sex or a labor setting prior to acts of force, fraud, or coercion (or if the victim is a minor in a sex trafficking situation) is not relevant to the crime, nor is payment.
MYTH: People in active trafficking situations always want help getting out.
Every trafficking situation is unique and self-identification as a trafficking victim or survivor happens along a continuum. Fear, isolation, guilt, shame, misplaced loyalty and expert manipulation are among the many factors that may keep a person from seeking help or identifying as a victim even if they are, in fact, being actively trafficked.
This information was provided by the The Polaris Project. Please visit their website for more information.
The Colorado Human Trafficking Council seeks to increase awareness about human trafficking and place resource information where potential victims might see it. The Council’s campaign This Is Human Trafficking is a survivor-informed approach, written and designed to help the general public better understand the complexity of human trafficking. It also portrays authentic language that might be recognizable to a potential victim and encourages them to seek assistance.