It is easy to be confused about the language of human trafficking and yet getting the language right is one of the keys to helping victims.

The definitions below are neither legal nor medical, rather they are our attempt to define human trafficking in plain language. These definitions are not perfect but we hope they make this topic more accessible.

Human trafficking

Human trafficking consists of labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Human trafficking occurs when someone is compelled into service or when a minor is sold for sex.

Sex trafficking

When an adult is compelled into selling sex or a child is selling sex.

Labor trafficking

When an adult or child is compelled into service. Historically this type of exploitation was called involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or slavery.


An adult or child who is compelled into service. Often used while someone is still in the experience of trafficking or to prevent the person from being criminally charged for something they did or experienced while being trafficked.


An individual who has survived an experience of human trafficking. Often used as a term of empowerment to note that an individual has overcome or is in the process of overcoming a trauma. Is generally the term used by advocacy groups and healthcare providers.


To use, force, fraud, or coercion.  Note you only need one of these, not all three.


For federal law, a minor or a child is anyone under the age of 18. States define this for themselves, which means state laws may differ in how they treat children selling sex.

Case Studies Spotlight on Human Trafficking in America

Sex Trafficking

Anthony Donte Collier ran a Facebook group where he actively recruited women to work as prostitutes. He also used his position as a receptionist at his company, BGI Promotions, to recruit women under the premise of furthering their rap careers. Once he recruited them, he posted their photos on Backpage.com. He convinced romantic partners, waitresses, a Walmart employee, and a woman from a center of homeless and disadvantaged youth to “work at his company” but proceeded to abuse and threaten them until they agreed to prostitute for him. He assaulted his victims in order to force them to prostitute in hotels and private residences across North Dakota and Minnesota. Collier was charged with sex trafficking of four women and one minor.

Did you know?


Forced labor in the private economy generates an estimated $150 billion in illegal profits per year.


At any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery.


Their are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world.

If you are in the United States and you need help or you want to learn more about human trafficking:

Call: 1 (888) 373-7888
National Human Trafficking Hotline
SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish, and 200 more languages
Website: humantraffickinghotline.org



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