Sex Trafficking in America

When we think about the sex trafficking of women, we frequently think about 3rd world countries like Cambodia and Thailand, and we assure ourselves that it’s not our problem, that it’s something that could never affect us. However, recently, sex trafficking in the United States has been steadily rising and rising, and is growing to be a massive problem in our own country. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), operated by Polaris, experienced a whopping 259% increase in calls between 2008 and 2012.

Deemed as “modern slavery”, sex trafficking has been a pressing issue globally, but more recently, in our own country. Sex traffickers often use violence, threats, lies, and/or debt bondage in order to force women into the world of non-consensual commercial sex. Under federal law, any minor induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking, even if the trafficker used force, threats, or fraud on her.

One common method in which sex traffickers lure their victims is with affection. They promise her luxuries, money, gifts, and shower her with fake love and care. However, they gradually increase their control on her, such as forbidding her to contact friends and family, and physically and emotionally abusing her. Runaway and homeless youth and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war, conflict, or social discrimination are frequently targeted by traffickers.


What are the signs of a sex trafficking victim? (Polaris Project)

  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips

  • Works extremely long hours

  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off

  • Anxious, depressed, submissive

  • Lacks health care and looks malnourished

  • Has few or no personal possessions

Learn More:

A Victim’s Story of the Sex Trafficking World (Women’s Funding Network)

Trafficking Resource Hub (youthSpark) - learn about laws regarding trafficking and some background on the logistics of the entire sex trafficking system.

Take Action:

  • Sign petitions to urge Congress and the House of Representatives to pass acts and bills that will aid in the fight against sex trafficking.

  • Attend events hosted by Polaris.

  • Check out a bill called S. 178, which if passed, would create a special fund for victims of sex crimes.

  • Check out a recent law created in Georgia known as the Rachel’s-Safe Harbor Law, which cracks down on sexual exploitation of children by making adult entertainments, pay $5,000 annually if they are convicted of this crime, and $2,000 for traffickers if the victim was not a minor. Under the new law, sexually exploited children will be treated as victims and not criminals.

  • Check out House Bill 89, which includes penalties for those who pay for sex and clarifies that buyers of sex with minors are sex trafficking offenders. The legislation would also help ensure that victims of sex trafficking are not treated as criminals, and it would force people convicted of sex trafficking to forfeit their assets to compensate victims.

  • Check out House Bill 474, which would require the state Department of Justice to battle sexual abuse of children and human trafficking by providing statewide outreach and education for Montana communities. As part of that effort, the department would hire a full-time program manager to distribute information and educational materials statewide. The latest fiscal note attached to the bill would allocate $57,939 to personal services and $40,889 to operating expenses for a total of $98,828 in fiscal year 2016.

By Christina W (14), based upon an issue brief written by Shannon.

Attend or host event Volunteer