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What is Human Trafficking?


Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the exploitation of others. Human traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion against victims to manipulate them into engaging in commercial sex acts, or labor/services in exchange for something of monetary value (money, safety, transportation). When victims of human trafficking are minors, force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary. Generally, we think of victims of trafficking as foreign born, but often they are U.S. citizens. There is also not a requirement of transportation in human trafficking.


Human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. Currently, it is second only to drug trafficking and produces $32 billion of annual revenue worldwide (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC], 2012).

Sex trafficking can occur within numerous venues:

  • Streets
  • Hotels and motels
  • Truck stops
  • Online escort services
  • Online websites such as and
  • Brothels
  • Massage parlors
  • Migrant camps
  • Restaurants


Who are traffickers?

Human traffickers are people who control, sell, or transport others to be commercially exploited for labor or service through force, fraud or coercion (or are minors) and people who purchase those who are commercially exploited for sex acts, or labor services. They could be:

  • Pimps
  • Women
  • Under the age of 18
  • Family members of the victim
  • Involved in gangs, narcotics and other criminal activity
  • Smugglers
  • Employers at legitimate businesses
  • People who purchase sex acts


Numerous counties across Pennsylvania are involved in efforts to help people who are victimized through trafficking and hold traffickers, and people who benefit from trafficking, accountable for their crimes. To learn more about efforts in your area, contact your local rape crisis center.