Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking: Inherent Challenges and Promising Strategies from the Field. Who are victims of human trafficking?


Current stereotypes depict the victim of human trafficking as innocent young girls from foreign countries who are manipulated, lied to, and often kidnapped and forced into prostitution. However it is not just young international girls who are trafficked. Men, women, children of all ages, U.S. citizens, and legal residents can all fall prey to traffickers, and there are many victims of labor trafficking in addition to sex trafficking.

However, all trafficking victims share common characteristics that make them vulnerable to traffickers. They often come from countries or communities with high rates of crime, poverty, and corruption; lack opportunities for education; lack family support (e.g., orphaned, runaway/thrown-away, homeless, family members collaborating with traffickers); and/or have a history of physical and/or sexual abuse.

"Most of our cases are not 'black and white.' They fall into gray areas that are not always easy to prove."

Law enforcement officer

Unfortunately, as we are learning from law enforcement, service providers, advocates, and others working to combat this crime, finding these individuals who have been trafficked for the purpose of sex or labor is very difficult; even with definitions in place.

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