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Human Trafficking Facts

  • $236 billion made each year from human trafficking, that’s nearly $7,500 every second[1]
  • Women and girls make up 54% of all victims worldwide, and are 78% of victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation[2]
  • Many U.S. businesses have human trafficking in their supply chains without even knowing it [3]
  • Victims are told that police are corrupt, and that seeking help leads to being deported[4]
  • In 2021, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 10,360 reports of suspected human trafficking cases, involving 16,710 victims[5]
  • Traffickers make threats against victims’ families, using fear and shame as weapons[6]
  • 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported are likely to be sex trafficking victims.[7]
  • Human trafficking and people smuggling are different things[8]

Types of exploitation

Sexual exploitation

Vulnerable people, overwhelmingly women and girls, are tricked or forced into the sex trade. It often begins with a promise of good work in hospitality or modeling, or a ‘boyfriend’ is responsible.

Forced labor

This is when a person has no choice or control over their work, with the money they earn taken by someone else, who often also controls where they live and even who they can speak with.

Domestic servitude

A less common type of human trafficking, when a person is forced to cook, clean or do childcare for little or no pay, often living in the home with the ’employer’ and not allowed to live their own life.

Criminal exploitation

Victims are forced to grow or transport drugs, made to shoplift or pickpocket, are forced to beg or panhandle on the streets, or used for fraud. The threat of being reported becomes another method of control.

Forced marriage

In some jurisdictions outside the U.S., forced marriage is categorized as a type of modern-day slavery. Globally, 22 million people are thought to have been forced into a marriage without consent, nearly all women and girls, often to an older man in another country.

Source: Hope for Justice case analysis

How many people are in human trafficking?

The number of people who are in human trafficking or living in modern-day slavery is estimated at 49.6 million, including the 22 million in forced marriages. The remaining 27.6 million is made up of: [9]

  • 19.9 million people in forced labor in private or state-run companies, or criminal exploitation
  • 1.4 million people experiencing domestic servitude in private homes
  • 6.3 million people in forced sexual exploitation (including 1.7 million children)

Estimates suggest the number of people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States is up to 1,091,000. No-one knows exactly how many people are trafficked in or to the U.S. each year, because this is a hidden crime, but in 2021, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 10,360 reports of suspected human trafficking cases, involving 16,710 victims. This is widely acknowledged to be the tip of the iceberg.[10]

How do traffickers keep their victims under control?

Human traffickers use various forms of force, fraud, and coercion to control and exploit victims. This includes the imposing of debt, fraudulent employment opportunities, false promises of love or a better life, psychological coercion, isolation, addiction, and violence or threats of violence.

Trafficking is a power and control dynamic. Victims become trapped and fear leaving for many reasons, including psychological trauma, lack of documentation, shame, emotional attachment and dependency, distrust of systems and law enforcement, or physical threats to themselves or their families.

Source: Hope for Justice case analysis

Who is driving the demand for sex trafficking and labor trafficking?

Sex trafficking is a market-driven criminal industry based on supply and demand. People who purchase commercial sex increase the demand for commercial sex and likewise provide a profit incentive for traffickers, who seek to maximize profits by exploiting trafficking victims.

Labor trafficking is far more common than people realize. Human trafficking victims make an alarmingly high number of consumer goods and food products, imported to the United States and produced domestically. More often than we realize, elements of forced labor may be present within the supply chain of products we buy or the services we pay for. These consumers can include companies that subcontract certain types of services, end-consumers who buy cheap goods produced by trafficking victims, or individuals who use the services of trafficking victims (Polaris, 2021).

Source: Hope for Justice case analysis

Why don’t victims run away?

The relationship between human traffickers and their victims is complex. It is rare for the control to be based on physical confinement like locked doors or shackles. Instead, victims are exploited through manipulation, fear, dependency (including drugs), threats or debt bondage.

This means that during the time they are actually in exploitation, few people think of themselves as being a ‘victim’. They often describe feeling hopeless or having no options, or even feel a sense of obligation towards those who trafficked them. They do not understand their situation as being one that they could run away from or escape from.

For many, it is only once they get long-term help from an organization like Hope for Justice that they understand the extent of the exploitation and that a different life is possible, with the right support.

Anyone from any walk of life can be targeted and can end up as a victim of human trafficking. But people experiencing any of the following things can be at particular risk:

  • Chaotic home environment or recent family breakdown
  • Runaway youth
  • Homelessness
  • Alcohol or drug addiction
  • Mental illness
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Learning difficulties
  • Debts or criminal convictions
  • Fearful of deportation
  • Physical injuries or disabilities

Source: Hope for Justice case analysis


Together we can help more of those who are trapped and alone.


2. Global Estimates of Modern Slavery (International Labour Organization, Walk Free, and International Organization for Migration, 2022)

3. Hope for Justice case analysis

4. Hope for Justice case analysis

6. Hope for Justice case analysis

7. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), 2021

8. Human trafficking and migrant smuggling (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2021)

9. Global Estimates of Modern Slavery (International Labour Organization / Walk Free / IOM, September 2022)

10. Global Slavery Index, 2018 and Dept. of State 2020

young girl