Sex Trafficking

The Numbers

Signs and Symptoms of Sex Trafficking

1:6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are likely sex trafficking victims.

Signs and Symptoms of Sex Trafficking

6,081 sex trafficking cases were reported in the U.S. in 2017.

Signs and Symptoms of Sex Trafficking

Of those 6,081 reported cases, 89% of victims were female.

What is Sex Trafficking?

The National Human Trafficking Hotline defines sex trafficking as a form of modern day slavery in which individuals perform commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Minors under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex are considered to be victims of human trafficking regardless of the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

Sex traffickers frequently target victims and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry for their own profit.

Sex trafficking exists within diverse and unique sets of venues and businesses, including fake massage businesses, escort services, residential brothels, in public on city streets and in truck stops, strip clubs, hostess clubs, hotels and motels, and elsewhere.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1 (888) 373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate. Support is provided in more than 200 languages.

Sex Trafficking Signs and Symptoms

Sex trafficking is easily concealed, and it is vital that we be aware of its existence and warning signs. It is important to note that most victims do not self-identify as victims, have a strong sense of distrust or are not aware that help is available. Signs that someone may be a victim of sex trafficking include:

  • The inability to come and go as they please
  • Being accompanied by a controlling person
  • Rarely being allowed in public
  • Providing commercial sex acts under the age of 18
  • Working excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Working a lot but not having any money, possessions or bank account
  • Not having identification documents
  • Owing a large debt and being unable to pay it off
  • Living or working under high security measures (darkened or boarded windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Living where one works
  • Appearing fearful, nervous or paranoid – especially at the mention of law enforcement
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Appearing malnourished or in poor health (including STD’s, urinary difficulty, infertility, dental problems, etc.)
  • Showing physical signs of abuse, restraint, confinement or torture (bruises, scars, etc.)
  • Not being able to clarify where they are staying
  • Inconsistencies in their story
  • Only knowing sex related words in English
  • Substance or drug abuse

For more information about how you can support someone who is dealing with a life-controlling issue, click here.

Stories of Transformation

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Ally’s Story

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Amy’s Story

Need Help?

If you or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking, Mercy can help. Our program is completely free to the girls we serve. Call (615) 831-6987 for more details, or click here to learn more.