What is Sex Trafficking?

A criminal enterprise that uses force, fraud, coercion, or threats to cause an adult or a minor to commit a commercial sex act.  A commercial sex act can include prostitution, pornography, stripping, or other sexual performance in exchange for any item of value, such as food, clothes, shelter, money, or drugs. 

Sex Trafficking happens in all 50 States in the United States.  It happens in every community, regardless of the social-economic makeup, but underserved communities in the United States are more vulnerable.

What Drives the Market?

Sex Trafficking is a criminal enterprise that earns billions of dollars each year on the backs of the most vulnerable in our communities.  The reason sex trafficking is a thriving and profitable business is that there is a market where grown men desire to have sex with underaged girls, particularly girls of color.  Traffickers understand there is a market for sex with young girls and they supply the market by manipulating and luring vulnerable girls into sex trafficking to fill the demand.  A girl can earn a trafficker a half-billion dollars each year.

How Does It Work?


Commonly, traffickers will build a relationship with a victim in efforts to understand their desires and vulnerabilities and foster emotional attachment. The trafficker may use these desires and vulnerabilities to manipulate the victim, isolate them from friends and family and use force, violence, threats or intimidation to control the victim. Historically, because victims faced negative public stigma and often risked criminalization for the crime committed against them, assistance escaping the life seemed unattainable, further marginalizing them and committing them to a life of abuse and exploitation.

Who's At Risk?


Those who are most vulnerable to being trafficked are pre-teens and teens.  The average age of a trafficked victim is 12 to 14 years old. Factors that make young women and girls more susceptible to trafficking include low self-esteem, abuse, neglect, poverty, homelessness, being in the foster care system, and identifying as LGBT.  Emotional and economic dependence on others, an undeveloped ability to analyze decisions and understand consequences, and a high “market value” to both sellers and buyers make girls especially vulnerable. 

Black girls are disproportionately at risk.  Although African American girls make up 13% of the population, according to Rights4Girls.com, they account for almost half of all victims of sex trafficking in the United States.  African American young women and girls.

Other major risk factors include a significant amount of sexual violence against women and girls in the United States.  Sexual violence is a pipeline that funnels vulnerable girls directly into the hands of sex trafficking.  70-90% of girls that are trafficked have histories of childhood sexual abuse. 

Sexual Violence Against Girls

Every 9 minutes a child is sexually assaulted in the US

* A girl is most likely to be first fondled by age 5

* 1 in 4 girls is molested by age 18

* Half of all rape survivors were sexually assaulted by age 12

* Girls 16 to 19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault than any other age group


Girls who experience sexual abuse are more vulnerable

to sex trafficking!

Get Help


National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

If you have information about a missing child or suspected child sexual exploitation,

call 1-800-843-5678 to report it.

National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline


NHTRC (a national toll-free hotline 

available to answer calls from anywhere in the country 

every day of the year.)

Black & Missing Foundation



The National Runaway Switchboard: