“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

The recent news involving Jeffrey Epstein and sex trafficking at his private island has put human trafficking back in the headlines. Some people might not know what constitutes human trafficking or how widespread the problem really is. Here, we take a look at the current numbers from Polaris and the National Human Trafficking Hotline to better understand this issue.

What is Human Trafficking?

United States law defines human trafficking as, “the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor or services against his or her will.” Human trafficking can happen to anyone of any race and any socio-economic background. That said, there are vulnerable groups traffickers tend to target. These groups include mentally ill, substance abusers, teens, runaways, homeless youth and recently relocated migrants. While these groups are often targeted by traffickers, the wide range of backgrounds among traffickers truly make anyone vulnerable.

Traffickers can come from a number of different backgrounds from wealthy executives like Jeffrey Epstein to gangs, trafficking networks, business owners, intimate partners, government representatives or even family members or family friends. Traffickers use a number of ways to control their victims such as isolation, threats, physical abuse, emotional abuse, false promises and economic abuse. These tactics not only control the victim but also create a sense of dependency where the victim is dependent on the trafficker for basic necessities and survival. When they try to resist, victims are often lied to, manipulated, shamed and threatened into working in inhumane or illegal situations.

How Widespread is Human Trafficking?

In 2017 (the most recent year of released data), the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline were involved in 8,759 cases involving 10,615 trafficked persons and nearly 5,000 traffickers and 1,698 trafficking business operations. Unfortunately, human trafficking is steeply under-reported so these numbers are really the tip of the iceberg of this problem. Experts estimate that human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry involving nearly 25 million trafficked persons worldwide.

How can you help? Learn the signs that someone could be a victim of human trafficking in our blog post here.  Program the National Human Trafficking Hotline number into your phone: 1-888-373-7888 and the BeFree Textline number: 233733. You never know when having these numbers handy could help you save someone’s life from human trafficking.