Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a crime that involves the exploitation of a person for the purpose of compelled labor or a commercial sex act.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 11,500 trafficking situations in the United States in 2019. The situations involved 22,326 victims and survivors who were forced into labor, sex trafficking, or both.
Victims and survivors of human trafficking are varied with no single profile. Regardless of race, national origin, religion, age, gender, education level, or citizenship status, victims of human trafficking can be anyone.
While there is no defining characteristic that all human trafficking victims share, traffickers frequently prey on individuals who are poor, vulnerable, living in an unsafe situation, or searching for a better life. Victims are deceived by false promises of love, a good job, or a stable life and are lured or forced into situations where they are made to work under deplorable conditions with little or no pay.
Just as there is no one type of trafficking victim, perpetrators of this crime also vary. Traffickers can be foreign nationals or U.S. citizens, family members, partners, acquaintances, and even strangers.
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) manages the largest amount of funding across the Federal Government dedicated to providing services to victims of human trafficking. In this capacity, OVC strives to uphold the intent of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations to ensure that all trafficking victims – regardless of immigration status, gender, or form of trafficking – receive support in accessing the services they need to heal in the aftermath of victimization.
Through contracts and cooperative agreements, OVC also manages a broad array of training and technical assistance for victim service providers, law enforcement, and allied professionals, with a focus on enhancing the quality and quantity of services available to trafficking victims and grants to build capacity.
A study supported by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) explored what justice looks like through the eyes of trafficking survivors. Researchers found that trafficking victims favored prevention and victim healing efforts over incarceration of traffickers.
Another report supported by NIJ provides recommendations on how law enforcement can better identify and report cases of human trafficking, starting with guidance for front line officers.
Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal agencies: