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Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking affects individuals across the world, including here in the United States, and is commonly regarded as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. Human trafficking affects every community in the United States across age, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds. 

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.

Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, .

The Action-Means-Purpose Model can be used to describe the elements of human trafficking. Cases that are considered severe forms of trafficking in persons involve three elements:

1.    Action, which may be the recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining of an individual. Additional actions that constitute sex trafficking, but not labor trafficking, include patronizing, soliciting, and advertising an individual.

2.    Through the Means of force, fraud, or coercion. Examples of force include physical abuse or assault, sexual abuse or assault, or confinement. Examples of fraud include false promises of work/living conditions, withholding promised wages, or contract fraud. Coercion may include threats of harm to self or others, debt bondage, psychological manipulation, or document confiscation.

3.    For a specific Purpose, either of compelled labor or services or commercial sex act(s).

However, it is not necessary to demonstrate force, fraud, or coercion in sex trafficking cases involving children under the age of 18.

Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people in the United States and around the world. Traffickers are estimated to exploit 20.9 million victims, with an estimated 1.5 million victims in North America, the European Union, and other Developed Economies combined. Despite growing awareness about this crime, human trafficking continues to go underreported due to its covert nature, misconceptions about its definition, and a lack of awareness about its indicators. As governments, first responders, and researchers learn more about human trafficking, more information is gathered about the scope of human trafficking in the United States and worldwide (Provided by the Polaris Project)

From the US Dept of Health & Human Services, ACF

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