What is Slavery and Human Trafficking?

You may think slavery ended after the Civil War. Think again. There are more slaves now than at any time in history! Human trafficking is just a way of saying "the ways people are moved from freedom into slavery." Through violence. Lies. Manipulation. Threats.

Today's slaves are forced into labor, service or sex slavery to make money for their exploiters.  You see, the same people who traffick drugs and weapons realize that selling people is more profitable and less risky. People can be sold repeatedly. In the case of a sex slave, that might be 10, 20 or more times a day. In labor slavery, goods and services are continually produced without compensating the laborer.

Legal definition

Slavery is involuntary servitude. The legal definition defines Human Trafficking, or Trafficking in Persons (TIP), below. Basically, for an adult, force, fraud or coercion must be present. ANY minor used in commercial sex is legally a human trafficking victim.

  • An ACT or attempted act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person by means of force, abduction, fraud, coercion, purchase, sale, threats, abuse of power for the purpose of exploitation.

What is Labor Trafficking?

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines labor trafficking as: "The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery."

There are three types of labor trafficking:

  1. Bonded Labor
    Bonded labor is the result of labor being demanded as repayment for loans or services when the terms of these loans or services have not been clearly defined, OR when the value of the labor is not reasonably applied to the amount owed. Bonded labor happens when labor worth more than the initial value of the loan or service provided is demanded.
  2. Forced Labor
    Forced labor occurs when victims are forced to work against their will. Victims are denied freedom and ownership is exerted over them. This forced servitude is enforced by threat of violence or other types of punishment. Forced labor is present in many ways, including:
    • Domestic servitude
    • Agricultural labor
    • Sweatshop factory labor
    • Janitorial, food service, and other service industry labor
    • Begging
  3. Child Labor
    Child labor is work that may be hazardous to a child's health, or his/her development physically, mentally, spiritually, morally, or socially, or that could interfere with his/her education. Child labor is present in many ways, including:
    • Debt bondage
    • Forced recruitment for armed conflict
    • Prostitution
    • Pornography
    • The illegal drug trade
    • The illegal arms trade
    • Other illicit activities around the world.

(Information gathered from the Department of Health & Human Services' "Labor Trafficking Fact Sheet.")


Forced Labor in the United States

Forced Labor is far more common in the United States than many Americans know. Often, this involves importing workers from other countries, and then subjecting them to labor for little or no pay, using the threat of injury or other punishments. People are trafficked to and within the United States to forced labor in many industries, especially the agricultural and manufacturing industries. Victims of forced labor in the US are often subjected to long workdays with little or no time for breaks.

In the US, forced labor is common in the following industries:

  • Agriculture & Farms
  • Domestic Work
  • Hostess & Strip Clubs
  • Restaurants & Food Service
  • Factories
  • Peddling & Begging Rings
  • Hospitality Industry


Child Labor in the United States

In the United States, child labor is very common in agricultural work, but also in other industries.

Facts about Child Labor in the US

  • An average of 113 youth under age 20 die annually from farm-related injuries. 16-19 year olds suffer the highest percentage of deaths: 34%.
  • An estimated 3,400 children and adolescents were injured performing farm work in 2009
  • In 2009, 359 workers under age 24 died from work-related injuries. 27 of these were under 8 years old.
  • In 2007, workers under age 24 were two times more likely to need emergency-room care for occupational injuries than were workers over age 25.

What is Sex Trafficking?

The majority of survivors we encounter are those in sex slavery.


If a victim is a minor and used in commercial sex of any kind including stripping, pornography and/or prostitution , they are legally severe victims of human trafficking. Commercial sex means that the sexual acts are given in exchange for something of value. That "item of value" may be money, or simply a sandwich or a couch to sleep on for the night for a runaway. The majority of child sex trafficking victims are US citizens. Contrary to common perceptions, the majority of minor sex trafficking victims are not drug addicted. Some girls tell us their trafficker would not permit them to use drugs. 

In 2006, Shared Hope International received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to perform field research on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking - the sex trafficking of American children. Here's a quote from that report:

"American children are victims of sex trafficking within the United States. Domestic child victims tend to be easy targets and carry less risk for the traffickers and buyers than adults and foreign nationals. As transportation of human trafficking victims across borders becomes increasingly difficult and dangerous the trend is to target children here in the US."

Minors make a lot more money for their controllers than older girls do. 

According to a report released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, out of the runaways actually reported each year in Tennessee, about 1000 are trafficked. Virtually all trafficked youth have been abused and /or traumatized prior to their trafficking.

For a look at the most common tactics used to enslave youth, visit BeTheJam.org.

One study determined that minors who are trafficking victims are sold 10 to 15 times a day, six days a week. That means that each victim is "used" 9,360 to 14,040 times a year. Can you imagine the level of  trauma that would produce in a child?

80% of victims are female- but  want to note that boys are victims of human trafficking also, for both labor and sex.

In fact prostituted boys typically begin at an even younger age than girls.

It's clear that our children - both foreign nationals and US citizens - are targets for predators who wish to use them as very lucrative commodities.


For an adult to be a victim of human trafficking, force, fraud or coercion must be present. Sex trafficking of adults includes forced prostitution, stripping and pornography.  It's common to be threatened with severe harm to themselves or their family members, including their children, parents or siblings. Others are offered a seemingly legitimate job as a maid, nanny, waitress, factory worker, gardener or the like, but the "job" turns out to be slavery and the promised terms and wages, a lie.

The means of control mimic every category of torture as seen in the graphic.

Real, Here, and Growing


  • 27 million: Slaves in the world...more than at any time in history (Old stat)
  • $32 billion: Size of human trafficking industry...some estimate $50 billion.
  • 2nd largest and fastest growing crime on earth after drug trafficking
  • Commercial sex trafficking of minors: Fastest growing sex crime
  • 600,000 to 800,000: People trafficked each year
  • 80% of victims are female
  • 50% of victims are children
  • 2 children are trafficked every minute


United States

  • 18,000 to 20,000: People trafficked across US borders annually
  • 83% of victims in confirmed sex-trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. citizens
  • 12-14 years: Average age of entry into sex trafficking for girls; for boys, 11-13
  • 33%: Percent of all runaways who will be sexually exploited within 48 hours
  • 90%: Percent of runaways who ultimately end up in the commercial sex trade



  • 85 counties: Reported at least one case of human trafficking. (in 2011)
  • 4 counties:  Reported 100+ cases (a  case usually involves multiple victims)
  • 94: Number of children trafficked in Tennessee every MONTH. 


Nashville Area

  • Over 100: Cases of minor sex trafficking reported in Davidson County (2011) The study capped at this number. 
  • Over 100: Cases of adult sex trafficking reported in Davidson County (2011)
  • Atlanta to Nashville: Victims regularly moved on a circuit to minimize detection (Atlanta is one of the major child sex trafficking hubs in the U.S.)
  • Magnets for Sex Trafficking: Middle Tennessee traffickers find an attractive business climate among tourists, conventions, truck stops, a military base and among residents of one of the region's most affluent populations


In March of 2011, The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) released a report done in collaboration with Vanderbilt University based on research on sex trafficking of minors in our state.

TBI Director Mark Gwynn called the results "shocking" and said that  "Human trafficking and sex slavery in Tennessee is more common than previously believed possible"  In fact, results show that human trafficking is a larger problem in our state than gangs.... involving more counties.


Read the entire document here: http://www.tbi.state.tn.us/documents/FINALTNHumanSexTraffickingStudyColorrev2.pdf