FAQs

Q:  What percentage of prostitutes are trafficked?

A:  A 2003 study published in the scientific Journal of Trauma Practice reported that 89 percent of women in prostitution want to escape.  If the person of prostitution is or has been under the control of a pimp, s/he is a trafficking victim under the Trafficking Protocol.  S/he has likely endured the force, fraud, or coercion required by New York State and federal laws to constitute a victim of human trafficking.

Q:  How is pimping a form of sex trafficking?

A:  Pimps will resort to a variety of manipulation technique's to maintain power and control, including force (beating, slapping, burning, rape, gang rape, confinement, physical restraint), fraud (false promises, deceitful marriage proposals, lying about working conditions, lying about the promise of a better life, holding the victim in debt bondage), coercion (threat of serious harm to victim or victim's family, intimidation, humiliation, intense manipulation), and emotional abuse (creating dependency and fear of independence, fear of the police). 

Q:  What if a victim consents to the abuse?  Do the laws still afford her protection?

A:  Yes.  The consent of a victim is considered irrelevant under the Trafficking Protocol.  The Protocol acknowledges that a "victim's exercise of free will is often limited by means of force, deception, or the abuse of power."  The psychological control a trafficker exhibits often plays a significant role in a victim's refusal to leave or report her abuser to the police.

Q: Does physical violence have to be involved in human trafficking cases?

A:  No.  A person who uses psychological violence to force someone into a labor or sex industry is considered a trafficker.  Some victims experience beatings, rape, and other forms of physical violence, while others are controlled through psychological means, such as threats of violence, manipulation, and lies.  Often, a combination of physical, psychological, and mental abuse is used.

Q:  What are some of the signs and symptoms I should look out for in spotting a trafficked victim?

A:  Law enforcement and passersby often fail to spot the hallmarks of human trafficking.  While each case is different, certain patterns and signs have emerged that can aid people in detecting cases of human trafficking. The average age of entry into prostitution is twelve to fourteen.  All people of prostitution who are under the age of eighteen are considered victims of human trafficking. Most victims have endured sexual abuse and/or domestic violence and many will suffer from malnutrition and a lack of basic medical needs like dentists.  Typically, young victims will seem to be unable to make decisions for themselves and may be constantly checking their phones and reporting back and forth with their pimp.  Victims may also avoid eye contact, be dependant on alcohol or drugs, be fearful or anxious about law enforcement, and seem unaware of the city in which s/he is located.  

If you suspect that someone is a victim of human trafficking, call 911 immediately.

Q:  Does human trafficking always include transportation?

A:  No. The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (also known as the Trafficking or Palermo Protocol) makes it clear that "recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt" is enough as long as one of the enumerated means is used to bring victims within the "control" of traffickers.  Victims subjected to slavery within their own communities also fall within this definition of trafficking. There is no requirement that a trafficking victim cross any city, state, national, or international border.  In fact, trafficking can even take place in a victim's own home by her own family member.

Q:  Is human trafficking another word for smuggling?

A:  No.  There are many fundamental differences between the crimes of human trafficking and human smuggling.  Both are entirely separate federal crimes in the U.S.  Smuggling is a crime against a country's borders, whereas human trafficking is a crime against a person.  While smuggling requires illegal border crossing, human trafficking may include such activity but does not require it.

Q:  Are trafficking victims always foreign nationals?

A:  No.  Victims may be U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, or undocumented persons.

Q:  When is a victim eligible for a T visa?

A:  Applicants for T status must establish that they are victims of a severe form of trafficking.  For sex trafficking, this means that (1) a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or (2) the victim is under eighteen years of age.  For labor trafficking, this means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion or by subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. 

Q:  Who is at risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking?

A:  Anyone could be trafficked, regardless of gender, age, or economic status, but traffickers typically prey on individuals who are vulnerable in some way because it makes it easier for them to recruit and control.  Undocumented migrants, runaways, at-risk youth, and oppressed or marginalized groups are among the most common groups of victims. 

Q:  Do victims of trafficking self-identify themselves as such and seek help?

A:  Not necessarily.  Trafficked victims often do not see themselves as victims.  They may even blame themselves as a result of the severe manipulation of their traffickers.  Victims often are told not to trust law enforcement and may have even been violated or punished by police in the past.  Victims often have been trained and manipulated into believing that there is no way out and no one who can help them, especially if they are undocumented. 

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