Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking, often referred to as Modern Day Slavery, is a global issue that goes back centuries in some parts of the world and occurs in many forms of abuse and coercion. It is estimated that human trafficking generates $32 billion annually. In the United States, there are as many is 15 to 18 thousand international victims per year who are smuggled or transported within the U.S. to be enslaved in either forced labor or sex-work.  

Over time, the number of American-born (domestic) victims of trafficking in the U.S. has surpassed the number of international victims by a great margin (10-to-1).  According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 300,000 new Americans are victimized by some form of human trafficking each year. (Source)  The single largest demographic for newly targeted victims by traffickers here in the United States is American-born girls aged 12-to-14 years old. This type of human trafficking is known as Domestic Minor Sex-Trafficking (DMST).

"The single largest demographic for newly targeted victims by traffickers here in the United States is American-born girls aged 12-to-14 years old."

Human Trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transporting or procurement of any person for labor or services including slavery or commercial sex acts. Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is when this involves domestic minors who are coerced into prostitution or pornography. 

"If you were to ask 100 rescued victims of child sex-trafficking where they see themselves in 10 years, just about all of them would say they won't be alive then.  Sadly, the average victim of child sex-trafficking is an American girl aged 12 to 14 with an average lifespan, after enslavement, of 7 years."

The number of victims has increased exponentially in the United States, with approximately 20% of all Human Trafficking cases coming out of Texas.  The primary target for traffickers is American girls aged 12 to 14.  Many states, including Texas, used to prosecute child trafficking victims as prostitutes. In 2000, laws were updated to treat underage prostitutes as sex trafficking victims. Though this is a step in the right direction, there is a long way to go regarding after care for victims. After care treatment options available are severely lacking proper resources to restore both the physical and mental health of victims.

Current estimates of the number of American children who are trafficked is 300,000 per year, yet there are only about 300 treatment beds in the United States in facilities with the level of care required to adequately treat these victims. Victims, when rescued, have many complex and interconnected problems such as brain washing, Stockholm Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, STD’s, and a multitude of other medical, nutritional and additional issues. 

The level of treatment requires a highly coordinated multidisciplinary approach including doctors, case managers, social workers and therapists, among others. As a result, it is not usually possible for rescued DMST victims to successfully return directly home to family without transitional treatment and transformational treatment. Lack of facilities has resulted in many rescued victims being kept in jails or in lock-down juvenile facilities without treatment.  Without treatment to address the complex issues and prepare them to return home, often they will run away or escape and return back to the world of trafficking.

  • U.S. Citizens and foreign nationals are victimized by traffickers
  • An estimated 200,000 American children are at high risk for trafficking into the sex industry every year
  • Of those trafficked internationally, 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children
  • Texas has more calls into the national human trafficking hotline than any other state

"Trafficking Human Lives" by Nancy Neff Pgs. 5-7
The Utopian - Spring 2010 - The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work

Victim Challenges

The average age of entry into forced prostitution in the United States is 13. DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking) victims can come from any socioeconomic background; many have suffered from previous mental, physical or sexual abuse. Because of the high degree of trauma, victims often exhibit a complex set of symptoms while in their rescue and recovery processes.

Some after effects include:

Lacking Basic Needs
  • Improper Clothing - As victims are recovered, they are often found wearing inappropriate clothing, no matter the weather.
  • Malnourishment - Victims are often malnourished when they are recovered due to lack of proper food and the poor conditions in which they lived.
Medical Conditions
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases - There is a high rate of HIV and STD in this population.  It is important to address this issue immediately.
  • Drug Addiction - Victims are often addicted to a number of different drugs, causing severe use and withdrawal symptoms. Often drug addiction is forced upon victims as a means of control.
  • Physical Abuse - Many victims have suffered severe physical abuse, experiencing extreme violence. Violence is used to ensure victim compliance. 
Psychological Conditions
Victims may also experience other psychological disorders or symptoms such as:
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Depression 
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Self Harming Behaviors
  • Desensitized to violence
  • Dissociative disorders 
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Victims have undergone extremely traumatic physical, emotional and sexual abuse and manipulation. Pimps take time to get to know their victims, so that the process of manipulating them is seamless and hard to understand. Victims often don't understand the extent to which this is happening until it is too late and they have no choice but to comply. Paired with the dismal conditions in which they've been living, victims can experience severe PTSD or DESNOS — “Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified”
Symtpoms of PTSD and DESNOS include but are not limited to:
  • Anger Outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Depression and Hopelessness
  • Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings
  • Substance Abuse
  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of traumatic event
  • Flashbacks
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

The National Report On Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America's Prostituted Children
Linda A. Smith, Samantha Healy Vardaman, Melissa Snow of Shared Hope International
Chapter 5: Identification of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims and Trauma Bonds
Click Here for the link to PDF 

Dina Smith, Director of Programs, SAGE Project; San Francisco, CA
"Case Management of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims" from the 2011 South Texas Anti-Trafficking Conference
March 1, 2011