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Child Abuse - Human Trafficking

Defining human trafficking

The most widely accepted definition of human trafficking comes from the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, otherwise known as the Palermo Protocols. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000 and accepted by over 150 countries, the Palermo Protocols defines human trafficking as:

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

The U.S. Government defines human trafficking as:

·         Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.

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

Child trafficking includes labor and/or sex trafficking.

Labor Trafficking - In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, defines adult and minor victims of labor trafficking as anyone subjected to "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"

Sex Trafficking - A minor of sex trafficking is someone subjected to "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age" 

What does trafficking look like?

Children can be victims of sex and/or labor trafficking. Child labor trafficking may include situations where youth are compelled to work in agriculture, restaurants, family businesses, or to sell products through traveling sales crews.

Child Trafficking is Modern Day Slavery. Every year traffickers steal children as young as 5 years old and sell them into forced sex or labor situations. They are taken away from their families and forced to perform unspeakable acts. In the Child Trafficking definition of victims, boys are included as well as girls, and the victims could be anyone—your daughter, your son, your neighbor, your friend.

There is a serious misconception in America that human trafficking is strictly an international problem. But the uncomfortable truth is that human trafficking, one of the world’s fasting growing criminal industries, is a horrific issue right here in the United States.

Second only to the illegal drug industry, human trafficking is a criminal enterprise and it exists in every state in our nation. It cost an average of $80.00 to purchase a child and that same child is often forced to have sex 20 times or more a day, six days a week. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Every two minutes a child from the United States is trafficked for the purpose of human exploitation.”

Key Statistics in the Child Trafficking Definition

The average age of a trafficked child is between 11 and 14 years old. After they are sold into slavery, the outlook is often bleak as human trafficking victims typically only survive 3 to 7 years. This means children sold into slavery could be dead at 14 years old. If these statistics were not bad enough, the cause of death is often from violence, sexually transmitted diseases, drug overdoses, or suicide.

Children who are sold into slavery are at the mercy of their captors who often keep them confined, in a drug-induced fog, or both. They have no way to save themselves; they are powerless. This form of modern day slavery is real. 

Child trafficking victims. The phrase alone invokes images and situations too devastating to comprehend. We imagine back alleys in far-away lands, the underdeveloped and ungoverned backwater areas of the world, areas that are a universe away from the more civilized United States.

But the truth is much different and closer to home than you can imagine. Of the 300,000 children taken globally each year for the sex trafficking industry, 17,000 of those children will be from the United States. They are taken from suburban backyards, busy city streets, and rural areas. They come from families of all income levels, classes, demographics, and religious beliefs. Some of these children may have once shared classes with your own children, played on the same playgrounds, and walked the same trails. Just like cancer, child trafficking knows no socio boundaries.

Common Methods for Trafficking

Methods used for trafficking have evolved with technology. Traffickers no longer pursue children on the streets – today, they have found the internet to be an effective tool in finding new victims. These predators know that children are present on nearly all social media networks with limited parental monitoring. Traffickers lie, deceive, and manipulate young people into situations that quickly escalate beyond their control. Traffickers commonly pose as friends, peers, and attractive members of the opposite sex. These predators regularly find new ways to lure our children into unsafe situations where they can immediately be taken and sold into the sex trafficking industry.

While the problem exists almost everywhere on earth, there are some alarming statistics for Child Trafficking in the United States. Every year, over 17,000 children are taken in the U.S. and sold into trafficking. 46 children are taken every single day from our own backyard.

Some abduction cases might fit the profile of back-alley drifters, but most traffickers appear as personable and friendly strangers. Traffickers operate effectively without being detected because they look just like normal citizens. They dress like us, look like us, and shop at the same stores we do. This allows them to gain children’s trust and comfort. Even in public places, traffickers can prey on children who stray from their families or look lost. Before anyone realizes what’s happened, the child can already be in a car on the way out of town. Soon after, the child can be on the way out of the country. You truly cannot judge a book by its cover.

The Misconceptions of Child Trafficking in the U.S.

Misconceptions about the child trafficking industry and its operatives are one of the greatest struggles in combating this atrocity. Many believe that child trafficking victims are runaways who abandon their lives, or troubled teens that are easily manipulated. The truth is far more dangerous. Abductions and trafficking happens in suburban neighborhoods, in local businesses, and in busy airports. Trafficking rings have been found operating in churches, business buildings, and private homes, with the families and individuals around them completely unaware.

Children stolen into sex slavery or forced labor often never see their homes again, they are forced into a new life as Child Slaves. It is not uncommon for traffickers to travel with them to meet the demands of users in other cities, states, and sometimes countries. Airports can be a huge hub for trafficking activity because of this. Traffickers pose as family members of the children and put them on planes traveling to cities where users are waiting. The scene can look like a normal airport farewell, so often it goes unnoticed.

While many children are taken from their homes and shipped to other countries, just as many remain right here in the United States. The U.S. sex trafficking industry exists in the shadows, causing most to believe it cannot be happening around us. Unfortunately, it is active, aggressive, and taking place in our own neighborhoods.

Traffickers often operate in areas near transportation hubs; highways and airports are popular hunting grounds. This allows them to lure away a child and travel quickly, before families even realize their child has been taken.

Child Slaves: What Happens Next?

Once traffickers take a child, they typically pose as a family member or caregiver while in public. The average citizen ignores a screaming or crying child if someone else appears to have stewardship over them; it is not an uncommon scene. Many traffickers travel with children out in the open, and place Child Slaves on planes to cities where users are waiting for them. Gravely, a tearful farewell at an airport could be something much darker than what it appears.

The majority of U.S. child trafficking takes place along the borders, along major transportation routes, shipping hubs and large cities. While these highly populated cities are hotbeds for trafficking, children are also taken and sold in rural areas all over the country.

Human Trafficking Analysis Tool

The chart below, developed by the Solidarity Center, extrapolated and simplified from the 2000 UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children definition, is a useful tool for analyzing individual cases to determine whether, or not they constitute trafficking. For a situation to be trafficking, it must have at least one of the elements within each of the three criteria of Process, Means, and Goal.

Human Trafficking is:






























Abuse of Power








Violence/Sexual Exploitation


Forced Labor


Involuntary Servitude


Debt Bondage 
(with unfair wages)


Slavery/Similar practices

Child trafficking may be distinguished from other forms of exploitation or abuse by applying the Action + Means + Purpose Model. Child labor trafficking occurs when a trafficker takes any one of the enumerated actions, and then employs the means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of compelling the victim to provide labor or services. At a minimum, one element from each column must be present to establish a potential situation of labor trafficking involving minors. Child sex trafficking does not require the presence of force, fraud or coercion.

If you need help

Visit ONE PLACE Family Justice Center at 530 S. Lawrence Street, Montgomery, Alabama or call 334.262.7378 or if you are in immediate danger Call 911.


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