Sex trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery in which the victim (98% women and children, 2% men) is forced or coerced into performing sexual acts. The United States of America is the second largest market and destination for women and children trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation. Since sex trafficking is done secretively, it is difficult to determine exactly how many people are victims of sex trafficking. The U.S. government estimates that as many as 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States each year from countries like Mexico, Central America, East Asia, South Asia, Africa, Russia, and Europe (Hepburn & Simon 2010). According to Schauer and Wheaton (2006), 100,000 to 150,000 women and children are sexually exploited and kept under slavery in the United States at any given time. Women and children are trafficked with the intent of sexually exploiting them by prostitution, live sex shows, stripping, and pornography.

     The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has identified several methods used to traffick women and children into the United States. One method used by sex traffickers is to steal legal documents from U.S. citizens that have previously been forced in the sex industry and then redistribute the documents illegally to women from other countries. Another method used by sex traffickers is to lure women and children into the industry by promising them a good job or a false marriage proposal in another country. Furthermore, women and children are also sold into the sex industry by their parents, husbands, or boyfriends. There are also cases in which women and children are abducted and forced into the sex industry. Once a woman or child is brought into the industry, they are subject to debt bondage. Debt bondage is when sex traffickers trick their victims into believing that they owe the traffickers money. Traffickers will use excuses, such as telling their victims that they are paying for their living expenses or paid for their transportation costs, in order to persuade their victims into trusting their judgment. After the debt as been established, sex traffickers force the women to pay them back by exploiting them for their personal services.

     Women who are in poor economic and cultural environments are easily victimized by sex traffickers. Women who live in poverty, are unemployed, have low education levels, live in a culture with little-to-no opportunities for females, or sacrifice themselves on behalf of their families are often victims of sexual exploitation (Schauer & Wheaton 2006). The United States is appealing to the women from other countries because it offers more job opportunities and marriage partners. Once women are brought to the United States, they are “softened” or “seasoned,” a process that involves dehumanization, gang rape, addiction to drugs, and violence. If the woman resists the demands of her captor, she will be a victim of an even harsher “softening” process. When the woman complies with the demands of her captor, she is thrust into the sex industry. Most women become prostitutes or enter the pornography business. However, the women are moved around every couple of weeks to ensure they do not form friendships, become attached to a certain person or place, become well known by customers, or learn to trust or contact the police. Because these women are brought over from other countries, where police may be scarce, they do not have a good concept of what a police officer can do for them. They are also tricked by their captors into believing that they cannot trust the police.

     Women involved in sex trafficking are in grave danger and can be subject to abuse, addiction, and rape at any moment. The Administration of Children and Families (ACF) has identified some of the physical and psychological damage that can happen to the victims of sex trafficking. Some of the major health risks include: drug and alcohol addiction, physical injuries from abuse, HIV and other STDs, traumatic brain injuries, and sterility. Some of the major psychological problems victims face include: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal thoughts, and mind/body separation.


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