Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal enterprise in the world, generating over $150 billion a year globally. Coined “modern day slavery”, this crime subjugates over 40 million slaves – more than at any other time in history- into labor or commercial sex through the use of force, fraud or coercion.
The problem is well and alive in our own back yard, with some 100,400 US victims identified at the federal level in 2017 and California leading the nation in cases reported.
Many factors contribute to the explosive growth of this industry: the ongoing demand for sex and cheap labor, the lucrative nature of selling human beings, the barriers to prosecuting and convicting offenders, and the challenges faced by victims to escaping “the life.” Unlike drugs that can be sold only once, a person can be sold over and over, at lucrative prices of up to $500,000 a year per victim. In most cases, none of the revenue goes to the victims who often endure countless days and nights of rape, abuse, torture and violence.
Youth that are marginalized, especially runaways, homeless, victims of sexual abuse, and foster kids – especially when they age out at 16 or 18 – are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Of the 25,000 US runaways reported by the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children in 2017, 1 in 7 was likely a victim of child sex trafficking. Immigrants and low-income families are targets of labor trafficking. Yet, trafficking has been found in all demographics, including wealthy upper class communities.