Trafficking by the Numbers

Important topics to note

  • When a child has been recruited, transported, harbored, or received and some commercial element is introduced in the production of child pornography, then that individual has also engaged in child trafficking. Whether they work in strip clubs or sweatshops, these boys and girls are victims of human trafficking.

  • "The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” 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 an act has not attained 18 years of age.

  • The economic reality is that human trafficking is driven by profits. If nobody paid for sex, sex trafficking would not exist. 

Where Do Trafficked Children Come From?

Child trafficking victims, whether for labor, sex or organ trafficking, come from all backgrounds including both boys and girls. They pan a wide range from 1-18 years old. Sex trafficking victims up to roughly 25 years old most often started as young as 12. Children are trafficked out of, or into the United States from all regions of the world and represent a variety of different races, ethnic groups and religions. They may be brought to the U.S. legally or smuggled in. Trafficked children can be lured to the U.S. through the promise of school, work or the opportunity to send money back to their families. Children are also vulnerable to kidnappers, pimps, and professional brokers. Some children are even sold to traffickers by their families, who may or may not have an understanding of what will happen to the child. U.S.-born children are also trafficked within the U.S., coming from any racial group and socio-economic background.


The Numbers

In 2012, the (UNODC) United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports the percentage of child victims had risen in a 3 year span from 20% to 27%. Of every three child victims, two are girls and one is a boy.

Gender and age profile of victims globally:

  • 59% Women

  • 14% Men

  • 17% Girls

  • 10% were boys

600,000 to 800,000 women, children and men bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited for forced labor or commercial sex (U.S. Government).

  • When international trafficking victims are added to the estimates, the number of victims annually is in the range of 2 to 4 million

  • 50% of those victims are estimated to be children

  • It is estimated that 76% of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the Internet

  • 2 million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade (UNICEF)

  • There are 20.9 million victims of Trafficking World wide as of 2012

  • 1.5 million victims in the United States 


Human Trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms.

  • Trafficking will surpass the illegal sale of drugs in the next few years

  • Drugs are used once and they are gone, but victims of child trafficking can be used and abused over and over

  • A $32 billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is on the rise and is in all 50 states (U.S. Government)

  • 4.5 million of trafficked persons are sexually exploited

  • Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year

  • 14,500 to 17,500 of those victims are trafficked into the United States each year

According To Non-Governmental U.S. Sources

The average victim’s age is 11 to 14.

  • Approx 80% are women and children bought, sold and imprisoned in the underground sex service industry

  • Average life span of a victim is 3 to 7 years (found dead from attack, abuse, HIV and other STD's, malnutrition, overdose or suicide)

  • The largest group of at-risk children are runaway, thrown away, or homeless American children who use survival sex to acquire food, shelter, clothing, and other things needed to survive on America's streets. According to the National Runaway Switchboard  1.3 million runaway and homeless youth live on America's streets every day. [5,000 die each year] It would not be surprising to learn that the number of children trafficked in the United States is actually much higher than 300,000.

Children are often targeted by traffickers as they are deemed easier to manipulate than adults. More money can be earned by younger girls and boys exploited in sexual exploitation, especially virgins. Pre-pubescent girls are reported to be injected with hormones to bring on puberty. Younger girls are expected to have a greater earning potential, and as such are in greater demand.

Physical and Mental Consequences of Trafficking for Victims

Child victims of human trafficking face significant problems. Often physically and sexually abused, they have distinctive medical and psychological needs that must be addressed before advancing in the formative years of adulthood.

  • Child victims of exploitation can face a number of long-term health problems:

  • Sleeping and eating disorders

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

  • HIV/AIDS, pelvic pain, rectal trauma and urinary difficulties from working in the sex industry

  • Drug addiction

  • Chronic back, hearing, cardiovascular or respiratory problems from endless days toiling in dangerous agriculture, sweatshop or construction conditions

  • Fear and anxiety

  • Depression, mood changes

  • Guilt and shame

  • Cultural shock from finding themselves in a strange country

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Traumatic bonding with the trafficker (Stockholm Syndrome)

Pull Factors

Demand for cheap labor and for prostituted women, girls, and boys is the primary "pull" factor. Common push and pull factors exploited by traffickers include:

  • Unemployment and perceived job opportunities overseas (into the U.S.)

  • Unhappy home situation: The victim may be in an abusive situation, their family may be in debt, or there may be an addict in the family

  • Relatives and friends live in the destination country

  • Returning migrants, legal and illegal, say they have made a better living for themselves

Sex buyers are far more complicit in the victimization of sex trafficking victims. Sex tourism and child pornography have become worldwide industries, facilitated by technologies such as the Internet, which vastly expand the choices available to pedophiles and permit instant and nearly undetectable transactions. 

Trafficking Victims

  • Child trafficking victims, like other child victims, come from many backgrounds and include both boys and girls across a wide range of ages

  • Children are trafficked to the U.S. from all regions of the world and represent a variety of different races, ethnic groups and religions

  • They may be brought to the U.S. legally or smuggled in

  • Internationally trafficked children, especially adolescents, may be lured overseas to the U.S. through the promise of work or school and the opportunity to send money back to their families

  • Children are also vulnerable to kidnappers, pimps, and professional brokers

  • Some children are sold to traffickers by their families, who may or may not have an understanding of what will happen to the child

  • U.S. citizen children may also be trafficked within the U.S., and come from multiple racial groups and socio-economic backgrounds

Needs of Rescued Trafficking Victims:


Many youth, especially U.S. citizen children trafficked within the U.S., runaway from problems at home and may be exploited as a result of emotional vulnerability, homelessness and the need to survive. Youth who run away from home and engage in "survival sex" often find themselves vulnerable to pimps and traffickers involved in prostitution networks. Approximately 55% of street girls, and a good percentage of boys, engage in formal prostitution and some think it is much higher than that. This means that a child client who has been homeless or living on the street for any amount of time has a great likelihood of having been sexually exploited or trafficked.

The sexual exploitation of children is not limited to particular racial, ethnic or socioeconomic groups, although children from poor families appear to be at somewhat higher risk of commercial sexual exploitation. In fact, most of the street children encountered in the study were Caucasian youths who had run away from middle-class families. One clear theme is the proportionate number of street youth who have histories or recurrent physical or sexual abuse at home and took to the streets in a desperate effort to bring their abuse to an end.

According to these researchers, child exploitation in the United States affects as many boys as girls, but boys are less well-served by social service and law enforcement systems because of the widespread belief that boys are better able than girls to fend for themselves. Without intervention, research has shown many boys shift from being victims of sexual abuse to victimizing other boys and girls as pimps and traffickers.


People are recruited in several different ways such as through fake employment agencies, acquaintances, newspaper ads, front businesses, word of mouth or abduction. Traffickers may be neighbors, friends, returnees, agricultural operators, owners of small businesses, diplomats and even families. Increasingly, however, the traffickers are organized crime syndicates, often in collaboration with corrupt law enforcement entities, government officials or employers, who may use several intermediaries from the first point of contact to the final destination of the victim. It the victim is transported, they use both legal and illegal means of transport and various techniques to keep their victim enslaved.

They may keep them under lock and key or in isolation from the public and from their family members or support networks, confiscate their passports or identification documents, use the threat of violence against the enslaved person or their families, threaten them with shame, fear of imprisonment or deportation, and control their money.

The psychological effects of torture are helplessness, shame and humiliation, shock, denial and disbelief, disorientation and confusion, and anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, panic attacks and depression. Victims may experience Traumatic Bonding (Stockholm Syndrome) - a form of coercive control in which the perpetrator instills in the victim fear as well as gratitude for being allowed to live or for any other perceived favors, however small.

Additional Links:

8 Reasons It’s Necessary to Join the Fight Against Human Trafficking

  1. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking)

    According to U.S. Federal Law, sex trafficking is defined as a trafficking situation where a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.

  2. Human trafficking is a $32 billion a year industry worldwide

    To put that into perspective, Justin Bieber is worth $200 million (according to Wikipedia.) That is the net worth from his career not per year. Human trafficking is a $32 BILLION A YEAR industry.

  3. Some girls (or boys) are sold by their pimps up to 20 times a night.

    This causes serious damage and deterioration to the human body and can have a lasting traumatic impact on the victim who may require severe medical attention and even reproductive surgery after being rescued.

  4. Human trafficking is present in all 50 states.

    Even though the Polaris Project names California, Texas, Florida and New York as the four biggest human trafficking states in America, it happens in EVERY SINGLE STATE.

  5. Legislation for the issue is lacking. Some victims of trafficking are considered “prostitutes” and are therefore charged as such with current law.

    This can cause fear and be used as a tactic by pimps to keep their victims from seeking help from law enforcement to get out.

  6. 8 DAYS, a full length feature film, gives a realistic look into the modern world of human trafficking. The victim and trafficker are always changing.

    Now that you know the crime exists, it’s time to do something. Raising awareness is only the beginning. The demand for children for sex must stop, buyers must be prosecuted for their crimes and victims must be set free.

  7. 8 DAYS film was created as a tool to raise awareness. Sex trafficking happens every day, all around us.

    Proceeds from sales and merchandise go to organizations that support victims and fight this crime.

  8. The victims and survivors of human trafficking need you!

    If you aren’t part of the fight, you’re part of the problem. The Voice alums Matthew Schuler and Brandon Chase as well as other celebrities including 90210’s AnnaLynne McCord, Switched at Birth’s Katie Leclerc, The Bachelor’s Jake Pavelka and Dylan Minnette from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day have all joined in with the 8 DAYS movement.