When most people think of human trafficking, they think that it only occurs overseas. That is not the case. Human trafficking happens overseas, as well as our own country. Broadening our perspective on human trafficking and its geographic nature, allows us to be aware of what is going on in our own back yards. In order to fully understand human trafficking, it is important to be informed on all areas of the issue. Recognizing the how and the whys around them both will better equip us to fight this issue in our own communities and in our policies globally.

domestic vs international 1According to the United Nations, there are approximately 27 million people enslaved around the world today. (This number includes labor trafficking, although this article will focus mainly on sex trafficking.) Human trafficking happens in almost every country in the world. Polaris Project estimates that about 161 countries are affected by human trafficking stating that: “It affects every country around the world, regardless of socio-economic status, history, or political structure”. The bottom line… Human trafficking knows no bounds. It affects everyone, everywhere, no geographic place is immune to human trafficking—including the US.. Because of this, it is important to be informed about human trafficking in other countries and within our own.

Human trafficking in other countries sometimes looks different than it does domestically. Although it is not bounded by poverty or socio-economic status, human trafficking is more common in poorer countries. For example, children are sold by their family members in order to provide for the family. Young women follow in their mothers’ footsteps and sell their bodies to provide for the family, because, culturally, that is what they are supposed to do. Some victims are kidnapped off the street. Sometimes girls are promised better jobs in the city and end up being trafficked instead.

domestic vs international 2Within the United States, it is estimated that 300,000 children are at risk of being sexually exploited every year1. Sex trafficking in the United States happens in a variety of places including hotels, massage parlors, strip clubs, escort services, brothels, and on the streets. Victims of sex trafficking in the United States are mostly youth. These youth are typically runaways or throwaways who get sold a ‘better life’ and end up being trafficked instead. The average age for a female to enter sex trafficking is 12-14 years old2. However, there are adult victims of sex trafficking and even male victims of sex trafficking (they should not be ignored).

Tactics and forms of trafficking the US are much more secretive and underground. Since commercial sex is mostly illegal the trafficking and sale of victims is often done through legal storefronts like message parlors or escort add agencies. But the reality of trafficking is the same. Vulnerable individuals being coerced into a lifestyle they did not want and who are being forced to stay and work without pay.

Exploitation is globally indiscriminate. Realizing the difference and similarities allows us to gain a more unified understanding of trafficking and let us learn from our foreign counterparts. While the issue of human trafficking is broad and difficult to quantify understanding the basic natures of trafficking lays a good foundation for further research.

If you are interested in that further research we recommend these articles for further reading on human trafficking in the United States and overseas: