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Sex Trafficking In The US: 4 Questions Answered

Robert Kraft's criminal charges bring new attention to the horrifying crime going on in plain sight.

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Hotels and motels along major highways are common spots for sex trafficking.

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New England Patriots CEO Robert Kraft’s criminal charges in southern Florida draw new attention to this serious problem.

Sex trafficking, , is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act” by means of “force, fraud, or coercion.” This is a form of modern-day slavery. Found in , some might be victims for weeks and .

, I feel that it’s important for the public to understand how it manifests in the U.S. today. While there’s still a great deal that is unknown about sex trafficking, research studies and nonprofits have been able to gather telling data on this industry’s victims and perpetrators.

Where does sex trafficking happen?

Sex trafficking in motels and impoverished neighborhoods along the interstate highway system as well as in major urban centers. Some of the busiest corridors of the interstate include I-5 in the West, I-95 in the East and I-80, stretching from coast to coast.

Interstate highway map of the continental U.S.

operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which takes tips on sex and labor trafficking. Although the Polaris data are not from a random-sample survey, they shed light on types of sex trafficking in the U.S. In 2017, Polaris received more than 6,000 hotline tips about sex trafficking across America. Among these data, the top venues for sex trafficking included illicit massage parlors, hotels and motels, and residential brothels.


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has partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s . The National Association of Truck Stop Operators offers trainings to help truckers, truck stop owners and employees identify the signs of human trafficking, such as malnourishment, lack of eye and disorientation.

Hotel chains are training their employees as well.

Who are the victims?

Reliable data on the number of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. .

In the U.S., studies show that most victims of sex trafficking are women and young girls. They are, .

for sex trafficking include a history of child abuse, substance abuse, poverty, involvement in child protective services, involvement in juvenile detention and prior sexual exploitation.

Runaway and homeless youth are especially at risk for sex trafficking. A study conducted in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Phoenix found that . Among these sex trafficking victims, 33 percent identified as LGBTQ.

A young person is more likely rather than in person, due to the rise of social media.

Who are the traffickers and the johns?

Men who purchase commercial sex come from all walks of life.

found that 4.9 percent of men in Tampa, Florida, said they had ever paid for sex. Among those men who paid for sex in Tampa, men aged 41 to 70 were most likely to pay for sex, making up about 13 percent of the total.

Traffickers include . Sometimes, when a victim of sex trafficking has been groomed enough, she becomes “,” helping her trafficker recruit other victims.

Research shows that , not necessarily one of pure evil. Slaveholders can think they are doing a favor to the enslaved, by taking care of them, giving them food and shelter, and even “protecting” them from a world in which they would otherwise be disposable.

How much money does the commercial sex economy generate?

found that revenues from underground commercial sex ranged from US$39.9 million in Denver to $290 million in Atlanta.

Although many experts suspect that major sporting events, , might encourage the demand for commercial sex, preliminary research suggests .

The breadth of sex trafficking in the U.S. has prompted federal responses. The FBI has organized , a collaboration of dozens of field offices and hundreds of local law enforcement organizations. In October 2017, Operation Cross Country XI conducted a nationwide sting leading to the freeing of 84 minors and the arrest of 120 traffickers.

A national discussion on sex trafficking is growing after Kraft’s arrest. With better data collection methods and a stronger national coordinated effort, I believe that the U.S. could eventually come closer to the day when modern slavery is no more.

, Associate Professor of Political Science,

This article is republished from under a Creative Commons license. Read the .

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