Human trafficking is modern-day slavery

Slavery today is defined as forced to work without pay under the threat of violence and unable to walk away. It happens in many places including brothels, mines, farms, fishing, factories, and homes. Human traffickers prey on people's hope for a better life. 

This page will help you identify the different forms of human trafficking, and what to do if you suspect that you see them.


45.8 Million

people in slavery today

More than at any other time in history. 
Source: Global Slavery Index 2016

$150 Billion

Global Profits from human trafficking

It is the second most profitable criminal industry, after drug trafficking.


Forced Labor

  • Person is coerced to work in any labor situation for negligible or no pay

  • Subject to severe physical and psychological abuse, threats, violence, and sometimes physical isolation

  • Found in many different areas, such as mines, factories, farms, fishing boats, homes, restaurants

  • Prevalent in the production of the raw materials that create the things we use daily, such as the minerals in our phones and electronics, the cotton in our clothing and the crops that become our food.

  • At risk are:

    • Children for their ability to perform tasks such as to climb trees to pick cocoa, fit into small areas to mine minerals, weave a rug quickly on a loom, or untangle fishing nets caught under water. They are obedient, vulnerable, and their wills are easily broken.

    • Women who are sexually exploited and abused, and often forced to also work as prostitutes.

    • Illiterate victims from impoverished communities, who are coerced into signing contracts they cannot understand. Traffickers take full advantage of their desperation for work.


  • Many people who are trafficked are told they owe money to their employer, broker or trafficker, and that their work will pay off this debt, after which they will begin receiving their income.

  • These falsified debts are accompanied by inflated interest rates, which ensure that the victim will never be able to pay and may lasts for generations.

Domestic Servitude

  • Victims of domestic servitude live and work in someone’s home without pay. They may clean, cook, drive, care for children or for the elderly, and perform other household tasks, working from dawn until deep into the night.

  • Frequently they are from foreign countries, and before they make the decision to live in the household that will employ them, they are told that they will receive a good income.

  • Instead, they receive little or no pay, and are often kept captive in the house they tend to. Their passports are typically confiscated, and they are told that if they run away they will be deported or arrested. These conditions and treatment remain in the privacy of the home, leaving the victim completely isolated. This is frequently accompanied by sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse.

  • The most common way these victims are saved is by a neighbor or acquaintance who notices the warning signs of this form of slavery. Domestic servitude exists everywhere, from the suburbs of Long Island to Saudi Arabia, from India to Singapore.


  • Domestic workers who are rarely allowed out of the house, unless their employer or a guardian is with them

  • Domestic workers whose identification/passport are held by the employer

  • Domestic workers who are subject to abuse, insults, threats or violence

  • No private space or a place to sleep, sleeping on the floor or sofa

  • Evidence of a poor diet

  • If the worker is a child: poor attendance at school/no access to education, and no time allowed for recreation

Sex Trafficking

  • Sex trafficking is a worldwide crime that affects children, women and men of every age. It is prevalent whether a country considers prostitution legal or illegal. Victims are controlled by rape, trauma, brutal violence, threats, forced drug addiction, and psychological manipulation.

  • Traffickers prey on a victim’s hope for a better life. Most victims are vulnerable to trafficking due to pre-existing conditions in their lives, such as poverty or abuse.

  • The United States Government defines sex trafficking victims as people who are forced to engage in commercial sex, and children under the age of 18 who engage in commercial sex. Victims are forced to work in a variety of locations, including residential brothels, escort services, massage parlors, strip clubs, truck stops and the street. Their services are frequently advertised on Craigslist, and in other online venues, in magazines, and in newspapers.

  • People targeted by sex traffickers are often young, but can be any age. The average age of prostitutes around the world, and the average age of entry into prostitution in the USA is 13 years old.

  • As in all forms of trafficking, victims are often trafficked by someone they know: a family member, an acquaintance, or a new “boyfriend”.

  • The trauma that victims of sex slavery experience makes recovery a challenging, complicated path. Organizations work tirelessly to provide shelter, food, medical treatment, psychological treatment, education, job training and more for victims.

Other Forms of Slavery

  • Slavery can appear in many other forms, including:

    • Child soldiers in wars; abducted and forced to fight against their will by armies and warlords. During Uganda’s 20 year long civil war, many children were taken as “war children”, and forced to fight in the country’s civil war by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Frequently, they are forced to take drugs, which desensitizes them to the horrible acts they are surrounded by, and that they are forced to commit. They are subjected to the brutality of war, and are forced to inflict violence on others, including those they love. The girls taken are typically raped and subjected to other sexual abuse.

    • Street beggars;

  • Atypical manifestations can be difficult to identify. Victims are subjected to the same threats and coercion to remain hidden. Victims can be imprisoned in countries they have never been to before, or in the town where they were born.



Myths and Misconceptions

Understanding Victims’ Mindsets


Know The Signs

In the majority of human trafficking cases, victims are afraid that if they reach out for help they will be abused by their trafficker, or punished by authorities.


Assuming you have the opportunity to speak with a potential victim privately and without jeopardizing the victim’s safety because the trafficker is watching, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags that alerted you:

  • Can you leave your job if you want to?

  • Can you come and go as you please?

  • Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?

  • Has your family been threatened?

  • Where do you sleep and eat?

  • Are you in debt to your employer?

  • Do you have your passport /identification? Who has it?


While not an exhaustive list, these are some key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:

  • Living in poor conditions with employer

  • Inability to speak to individual alone

  • Signs of physical abuse

  • Submissive or fearful

  • Multiple people in cramped space

  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed

  • Employer is holding identity documents

  • Unpaid or paid very little

  • Under 18 and in prostitution