Sex Trafficking in America

Simply put, sex trafficking is modern-day slavery.

Is sex trafficking really happening in the United States?


People often think sex trafficking only happens “over there” – with children being sold into slavery to pay off debts, or teen girls in Asia or Eastern Europe being kidnapped and forced to work as sex slaves. These scenarios are certainly happening around the world, but trafficking isn’t only a problem in foreign countries. Trafficking is happening right here in America, with American children.


In 2003 the FBI created the Innocence Lost Task Force to combat sex trafficking. As of October 2015, the FBI has recovered more than 4,800 children who were victims of sex trafficking (2). Sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world(3).


Sex trafficking occurs all over the United States – truck stops, suburban neighborhoods, strip clubs, big cities, schools, churches, and small towns. Cell phones and the internet have made it convenient to sell underage girls for sex, and you can order girls almost as easily as ordering a pizza.

What is Sex Trafficking?

Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA, 2000), sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for one of three purposes:

  • Labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

  • A commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

  • Any commercial sex act, if the person is under 18 years of age, regardless of whether any form of coercion is involved(1).

Who are the trafficking victims?


There are several ways that girls and boys can become trafficked in the U.S:


  • A friend, boyfriend, family member, or a complete stranger will trick, threaten or coerce her into the commercial sex trade.  

  • The most vulnerable victims are those who come from abusive homes where a girl has been abused, molested, raped, or neglected to the point that they cannot stay at home. 

  • It has been estimated that within 48 hours of leaving home 1 out of 3 runaways will be approached by a trafficker or pimp. These runaway girls are extremely vulnerable because they are typically desperate and are willing to accept the care of a stranger in exchange for sex.


Click here to find out what Sarah's Home is doing about sex trafficking 

Where can I look for more resources?


Somebody’s Daughter: The Hidden Story of America’s Protituted Children and the Battle to Save Them by Julian Sher

Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time by Carissa Phelps

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself by Rachel Lloyd

God in a Brothel: An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue by Daniel Walker

Not in My Town: Exposing and Ending Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery by Dillon Borroughs and Charles Powell

The Slave Across the Street: The True Story of how an American Teen Survived the World of Human Trafficking by Teresa L. Flores

The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It by Victor Malarek

Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Childreninda Smith with by Cindy Coloma

The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today by Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter

The White Umbrella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking by Mary Frances Bowley 

Children of the City by Tiffany Pastor

Documentaries and Videos

Playground produced by Libby Spears

Very Young Girls produced by Rachel Lloyd

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls produced by Exodus Cry

Tricked: The Documentary produced by John-Keith Wasson and Jane Wells

In Plain Sight produced by Noah Lamberth, David Trotter, Natalie Grant

Chosen produced by Shared Hope International

Making of a Girl produced by Truckers Against Trafficking

Truckers Against Trafficking Training Video produced by GEMS

Stop This Traffic produced by Manasseh Project & Bradley Productions

1 - U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics “Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010, Special Report NCJ 33732, April 2011” by Duren Banks and Tracey Kyckelhahn, BJS Statisticians
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