Frequently Asked Questions

Reliable evidence-based information about human trafficking is hard to find even when it exists. Knowing the truth about human trafficking is the foundation to fighting it and helping victims. In this section we have answered questions we are repeatedly asked about human trafficking. We hope this list is helpful as you try to learn more. If you have a question you can’t find the answer to please submit it below.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking occurs when someone is compelled into service. Indivduals may be compelled through force, fraud, coercion, or because of their age. Traffickers often target individuals based on vulnerabilities (e.g., age, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, culture, immigration status, housing instability); however, anyone can become a victim of human trafficking.

Is human trafficking the same as smuggling?

Human trafficking and smuggling are not the same. Human trafficking is exploitation-based and does not require movement from one place to another. An individual can live and be trafficked in the same neighborhood. Smuggling refers to illegally transporting or moving an individual transnationally.

Is human trafficking the same thing as sex trafficking?

Sex trafficking is one form of human trafficking. There are many forms of human trafficking that can include sex trafficking, labor trafficking (including both forced labor and domestic servitude), organ trafficking, forced marriage, and exploitation of children for labor, sex, and warfare. Using the term sex trafficking when we are talking about human trafficking makes victims of other forms of trafficking invisible.

What if a trafficked person consents?

Consent does not legalize exploitation. Traffickers often target vulnerable individuals who consent to jobs others who are less vulnerable would not.

Why is Michigan the number two hot spot for human trafficking?

Michigan is not the number two spot for human trafficking. In fact, at this time we do not have reliable national data on the prevalence of human trafficking and therefore cannot rank cities and states. The National Human Trafficking Hotline keeps records of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, but these statistics reflect calls only, not identified cases.

How can I protect my child from getting kidnapped and trafficked?

While the idea of human trafficking often brings to mind images of people being taken or kidnapped, these situations are the rare exception. More often traffickers target individuals who are vulnerable and develop a relationship with them (and potentially their families) so that they can psychologically control and coerce them into labor and/or sex trafficking.

What validated screening tools are available for the healthcare setting?

The screening tool with the most evidence behind it is the Vera Institute Trafficking Victim Identification Tool (TVIT); however, it has not been validated in the healthcare setting. For a more comprehensive overview of validated and un-validated screening tools, please see our Overview in the Policies and Procedures section.

How often do human trafficking victims interact with healthcare providers?

When we think about identifying victims of human trafficking, we often do not think of healthcare providers. However, research studies have found that between 68% – 88% of human trafficking survivors in the United States have come in contact with a health care provider during their trafficking and were not recognized. These studies had limitations including small sample sizes, geographic constraints, and for one, a focus on only sex trafficking survivors. Additionally, this range is likely an underestimate because it primarily focused on survivors who received services at some point.


What is gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence is the umbrella term for violence directed at an individual because of their gender or biological sex. It is rooted in gender inequality and can affect individuals of all sexes and genders. Human trafficking is a form of gender-based violence.

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1. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2018)

Trafficking in persons

2. Chisolm-Straker, M., Baldwin, S., Gaïgbé-Togbé, B., Ndukwe, N., Johnson, P. N., & Richardson, L. D. (2016). Health care and human trafficking: we are seeing the unseen.

Journal of health care for the poor and underserved

27(3), 1220-1233

3. Lederer, L. J., & Wetzel, C. A. (2014). The health consequences of sex trafficking and their implications for identifying victims in healthcare facilities

Annals Health L.

23, 61.

Case Studies Spotlight on Human Trafficking in America

Sex Trafficking

Jimmy Lee Jones operated a sex trafficking operation for five years, forcing four women and two minor girls, to have sex in exchange for money. He promised them jobs as models or exotic dancers, but used abuse and deception to force them to work as prostitutes instead. When they refused to have sex with his clients or himself, he beat them. He was charged with sex trafficking and the commercial exploitation of minors across state lines and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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

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This email is not for urgent needs or requests. Please check the FAQ to see if your question has already been answered. We work hard to post answers to common questions in the FAQ. If you have a question not addressed in the FAQ, we will respond as we are able.