What is human trafficking and how does it affect children?

Learn how human trafficking affects children and take action to raise awareness and combat child trafficking in your everyday life.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, “Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will.”

Children who have lost or at risk of losing parental care like the ones we serve at SOS are particularly vulnerable to the worst human rights violations, including child labor, violence and sex trafficking. These vulnerabilities, especially when compounded by gender, racial, or ethnic discrimination or by insecurity caused by armed conflict or civil strife, create an ideal environment for trafficking.

Who is most at risk for trafficking?

Human trafficking can happen to anyone, but some people are more vulnerable than others. Significant risk factors include extreme poverty, recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the child welfare system and being a runaway or homeless youth. Often, traffickers identify and play on their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency.

Whether it is the trafficking of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the sexual enslavement of women and girls in the United States, or the forced labor of sub-Saharan Africans or refugees from the Middle East, desperate families and individuals often feel they have little choice but to risk exploitation in an effort to survive. 

Important statistics  related to child trafficking:

  • An estimated 10 million children today are exploited in forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation, child marriage and child trafficking. Exact numbers of trafficked children are hard to determine, since child trafficking is mostly hidden and victims are often fearful of coming forward.
  • It is happening right in our own backyards. Child trafficking happens in the United States and was reported annually in every U.S. state in 2018
  • Children were involved in nearly 30 percent of the 8,500 cases of trafficking confirmed by the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) in 2017.

Click here to learn of potential red flags and indicators of human trafficking to help you recognize the signs. If you see any of these red flags, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) for specialized victim services referrals or to report a situation.

Diane's Story

By the time Diane was six, her mother and father had both died of malaria. For two miserable years, Diane was forced to labor as a domestic worker, while her younger sister, Gloria, stayed in an orphanage. Their father’s longtime feud with his relatives kept anyone from helping the girls ...

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How can we end child trafficking?

Thanks to our supporters, SOS Children’s Village’s role in the global effort to combat child trafficking focuses on building a protective environment for children – a safety net of interconnected elements designed to safeguard children from violence, exploitation and abuse. When children cannot stay with their family or have no family, we give them a safe home, together with their siblings, where they can grow up in one of our SOS Families free from the threat of abuse and exploitation. Children can be shielded from trafficking when they have:

  • A safe family environment
  • Healthy meals and medical care
  • Preschool, primary and secondary education and training
  • Emergency relief in crisis situations

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You can help us prevent child trafficking before it starts by making sure vulnerable children feel safe, loved and cared for throughout the coming year. Take action today to give a child stability and a better chance of succeeding in life.

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