Sex trafficking is a very serious issue that plagues many countries, US included. It is a crime when men, women or children are forcefully involved in commercial sex acts. It is estimated worldwide that 4.5 million people are victims of sex trafficking.

False promises are ways that traffickers’ bait and enslave their victims ranging from adults to minors. Indigenous populations and those who live in poverty are specifically targeted and particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking as they lack basic rights and access to basic services, however, anyone can be a target.

Traffickers often promise employment opportunities in major cities, example men and boys may be told they are being sent overseas to work in construction and agriculture but are forced to perform commercial sex acts, women and young girls with promises of modeling are abused, threatened and sold in the sex industry upon arrival.

Many victims are manipulated with the promise of being set free after their “debt” is paid, “debt’ being referred to as the victim’s recruitment, transportation, upkeep or even their sale. Traffickers often use victims to recruit or transport other victims. When victims are caught, they might even be arrested for criminal activity such as prostitution, a legal charge is only one area of concern. Victims often suffer from long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease, drug addiction, malnutrition, and social ostracism.

The international definition of sex trafficking is forced labor, including forced sexual services. Forced labor being explained as all work or service from a person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered him or herself voluntarily. The UN’s Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children includes three elements in its definition: the act, the means, and the object. Sex trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons who under threat, force, coercion, fraud, deception or abuse of power are sexually exploited for the financial gain of another.

The same instance goes for the United States, sex trafficking involves three elements: the process, the means, and the goal. The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of an individual who under force, fraud or coercion is induced to perform a commercial sex act. Note that sex trafficking does not have to have some form of travel, transportation or movement across borders. At the core, sex trafficking is characterized by sexual exploitation through force, fraud or coercion

Trafficking has increased through the years due to the internet, and the ease of discreetly handling the transaction. Traffickers often lie about the victim’s age and may even disguise themselves as the person in the ad when communicating with potential clients on the phone.

Remember, be very aware of your surroundings, and always remember to be cautious of everyone you come in contact with.