Minors as young as 12 years old are recruited into prostitution in the United States. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will.
The factors that each of these situations have in common are elements of force, fraud, or coercion that are used to control people. Then, that control is tied to inducing someone into commercial sex acts, or labor or services. Numerous people in the field have summed up the concept of human trafficking as “compelled service.”
Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people around the world, and here in the United States. Human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world.
Sex Trafficking: Sex trafficking within the U.S. is legally defined as commercial sex acts induced by force, fraud, or coercion or commercial sex acts in which the individual induced to perform commercial sex has not attained 18 years of age. Minors as young as 12 years old are recruited into prostitution in these United States. The following documents summarize the framework of various sex trafficking networks, review the complex methods of control imposed by traffickers, and illustrate the challenges victims face in seeking assistance.
Human Trafficking: Human trafficking is a crime that often goes underreported due to its covert nature, various misconceptions about its definition, and a lack of awareness about its indicators on the local level. The materials below outline general information about human trafficking and include documents that discuss basic background information, past trafficking cases, potential red flags and other relevant resources to better comprehend the complexity of this crime. These materials aim to raise awareness about human trafficking and educate individuals and communities about and how to recognize this crime and play an active role in the anti-human trafficking movement.
Labor Trafficking: Labor trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Labor trafficking includes situations of debt bondage, forced labor, and involuntary child labor.
Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health
- Lacks health care
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
- Loss of sense of time
- Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
Source: Polaris Project
HB 2454 makes several changes to Arizona law to better equip prosecutors to go after the “pimps” and “johns” who engage in these terrible crimes. The bill also provides an affirmative defense for defendants charged with prostitution who are victims of human sex trafficking.
Despite increased awareness and changes being made to Arizona law in recent years, human sex trafficking continues to be prevalent around the nation and specifically in Arizona. It has been estimated that at least 100,000 American juveniles are victimized through prostitution in America each year, and in Arizona, hundreds of children are enslaved as child prostitutes.
In 2013, Governor Brewer established the Task Force on Human Trafficking to identify opportunities to strengthen Arizona statutes, administrative practice, and law enforcement training around human trafficking issues. After numerous meetings, the task force issued a report in which several recommendations were made.
HB 2454 addresses some of the recommendations made by the task force, specifically in regard to equipping prosecutors with the ability to charge human traffickers with appropriate offenses and sentences and providing victims an affirmative defense to prostitution charges.
HB 2454 makes the following changes to Arizona’s criminal human trafficking and prostitution statutes: For the purposes of sentencing, prosecutors may allege a new aggravating circumstance for defendants convicted of human trafficking who recruited, enticed, or obtained the victim from a shelter designed to serve runaway youth, foster children, homeless persons, or victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, or sexual assault.
Prosecutors will be able to charge defendants who engaged in child prostitution and human trafficking under the organized crime and racketeering statutes.
Broadens the language of who commits child prostitution to include those who “should have known” that the minor whom they were engaging in prostitution was 15, 16, or 17 years of age.
Enhances the sentencing ranges for “pimps” that victimize minors that are 15, 16, or 17 years of age similar to how “pimps” can be charged for victimizing minors under 15 years of age.
Provides an affirmative defense to a defendant charged with prostitution if the defendant committed the acts as a direct result of being a victim of sex trafficking.
- Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.
- Trafficking primarily involves exploitation which comes in many forms, including: forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude and compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography.
- According to some estimates, approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labor exploitation.
- There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.
- According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. More than 70% are female and half are children.
- Sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.
- California harbors 3 of the FBI’s 13 highest child sex trafficking areas on the nation: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state in the US. 15% of those calls are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
- Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year.
- Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking). It reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of that number, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized countries.
- The International Labour Organization estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims with 11.4 million trafficked victims (55%) compared to 9.5 million (45%) men.
Source: Do Something
- Minors and Adults
- Woman and Men
- U.S. Citizens & Foreign Nationals (documented and undocumented)
- From any background, race, education level and socioeconomic level
Anyone can be vulnerable to human trafficking, but additional vulnerabilities to sex and labor trafficking include:
- Poverty and economic hardship
- Prior history of abuse
- Legal status – undocumented, documented, refugee populations
- Prior history of abuse
- Minors and Adults
- Woman and Men
- U.S. Citizens & Foreign Nationals
- From any background, race, education level and any socioeconomic level
- Family members, Intimate Partners, Friends, Employers, Strangers
Traffickers use methods of force, fraud and coercion to target individuals because they want to exploit these individuals for personal gain, control and power.
The support structure for the trafficking industry includes both criminal and noncriminal businesses and practices that facilitate human trafficking. This support structure is essential to the trafficking networks, often providing advertising, transportation, financial services, and spaces in which they operate.
Facilitators may also help hide human trafficking crimes from authorities and increase the risk or difficulty for a potential victim to reach out for help. Because facilitators are rarely, if ever, prosecuted, they frequently perceive a low sense of risk for their linkages to human trafficking operations.
Common facilitators on which traffickers frequently rely include:
- Hotels and Motels
- Labor brokers
- Taxi and other driving services
- Airlines, bus, and rail companies
- Online websites like Craigslist.com and Backpage.com
- Phone books
- Alternative Newspapers (and some mainstream newspapers)
- Banks and other financial services companies
In some cases, businesses are aware of their involvement in trafficking, and the profits they generate outweigh reservations they may have about their role. In other cases, businesses are unaware and find it difficult to know which of their customers are human traffickers.
While the presence of these facilitators is disturbing and important to highlight, it is also a reason for hope. Legitimate business are likely to be more receptive to joining the fight against human trafficking once the ways that traffickers operate are described to them. In this sense, the support structure can either play a role in facilitating trafficking, or it can fulfill an important function in making it more difficult for traffickers to operate.
By isolating traffickers and increasingly denying them opportunities to work through legitimate businesses, trafficking operations will be more risky and more difficult to maintain.
Source: Polaris Project
Many sex buyers may be unaware, ill-informed, or in direct denial of the abusive realities of sex trafficking situations as they exist within the broader sex trade. When sex trafficking is present, victims are often subjected to violence, threats, controlling behaviors, false promises, lies, and manipulation perpetrated by the traffickers/pimps. Popular media, including certain books, movies, television shows, and music, sometimes glamorize and romanticize the commercial sex industry without properly acknowledging the presence of sex trafficking. This glamorization then fuels the demand for paying someone else to have sex with them.
Additionally, it is common that victims of trafficking will not discuss their situation with customers or ask for help because they are trained by their traffickers to lie and keep up the act. As a result, “johns” may not fully realize the truth behind the facade, or the pain behind the smile. In places and communities where there is a demand to bux sex, sex traffickers directly respond to the demand by seeking to offer a “product” to be sold for profit. To sex traffickers, the “product” they sell are the women and children they control.
Automatic — A term denoting the victim’s “automatic” routine when her pimp is out of town, in jail, or otherwise not in direct contact with those he is prostituting. Victims are expected to comply with the rules and often do so out of fear of punishment or because they have been psychologically manipulated into a sense of loyalty or love. All money generated on “automatic” is turned over to the pimp. This money may be used to support his concession/phone account or to pay his bond if he’s in jail.
Bottom — A female appointed by the trafficker/pimp to supervise the others and report rule violations. Operating as his “right hand,” the Bottom may help instruct victims, collect money, book hotel rooms, post ads, or inflict punishments on other girls.
Branding — A tattoo or carving on a victim that indicates ownership by a trafficker/pimp/gang.
Brothel (a/k/a Cathouse or Whorehouse) — These establishments may be apartments, houses, trailers, or any facility where sex is sold on the premises. It could be in a rural area or nice neighborhood. Most brothels have security measures to prevent attacks by other criminals or provide a warning if law enforcement are nearby. The security is two sided–to keep the women and children in, as well as robbers out. The places often are guarded (and open) 24 hours a day, but some have closing times in which the victims are locked in from the outside. Victims may be kept in this location for extended periods of time, or rotated to other locations every few days.
Caught A Case — A term that refers to when a pimp or victim has been arrested and charged with a crime.
Choosing Up — The process by which a different pimp takes “ownership” of a victim. Victims are instructed to keep their eyes on the ground at all times. According to traditional pimping rules, when a victim makes eye contact with another pimp (accidentally or on purpose), she is choosing him to be her pimp. If the original pimp wants the victim back, he must pay a fee to the new pimp. When this occurs, he will force the victim to work harder to replace the money lost in transaction.
Circuit — A series of cities among which prostituted people are moved. One example would be the West Coast circuit of San Diego, Las Vegas, Portland, and the cities between.
Daddy — The term a pimp will often require his victim to call him.
Date — The exchange when prostitution takes place, or the activity of prostitution. A victim is said to be “with a date” or “dating.”
Escort Service — An organization, operating chiefly via cell phone and the internet, which sends a victim to a buyer’s location (an “outcall”) or arranges for the buyer to come to a house or apartment (an “in-call”); this may be the workplace of a single woman or a small brothel. Some escort services are networked with others and can assemble large numbers of women for parties and conventions.
Exit Fee — The money a pimp will demand from a victim who is thinking about trying to leave. It will be an exorbitant sum, to discourage her from leaving. Most pimps never let their victims leave freely.
Family/Folks — The term used to describe the other individuals under the control of the same pimp. He plays the role of father (or “Daddy”) while the group fulfills the need for a “family.”
Finesse Pimp/Romeo Pimp — One who prides himself on controlling others primarily through psychological manipulation. Although he may shower his victims with affection and gifts (especially during the recruitment phase), the threat of violence is always present.
Gorilla (or Guerilla) Pimp — A pimp who controls his victims almost entirely through physical violence and force.
“John” (a.k.a Buyer or “Trick”) — An individual who pays for or trades something of value for sexual acts.
Kiddie Stroll – An area known for prostitution that features younger victims.
Lot Lizard — Derogatory term for a person who is being prostituted at truck stops.
Madam — An older woman who manages a brothel, escort service or other prostitution establishment. She may work alone or in collaboration with other traffickers.
Out of Pocket — The phrase describing when a victim is not under control of a pimp but working on a pimp-controlled track, leaving her vulnerable to threats, harassment, and violence in order to make her “choose” a pimp. This may also refer to a victim who is disobeying the pimp’s rules.
Pimp Circle — When several pimps encircle a victim to intimidate through verbal and physical threats in order to discipline the victim or force her to choose up.
Quota — A set amount of money that a trafficking victim must make each night before she can come “home.” Quotas are often set between $300 and $2000. If the victim returns without meeting the quota, she is typically beaten and sent back out on the street to earn the rest. Quotas vary according to geographic region, local events, etc.
Reckless Eyeballing — A term which refers to the act of looking around instead of keeping your eyes on the ground. Eyeballing is against the rules and could lead an untrained victim to “choose up” by mistake.
Renegade — A person involved in prostitution without a pimp.
Seasoning — A combination of psychological manipulation, intimidation, gang rape, sodomy, beatings, deprivation of food or sleep, isolation from friends or family and other sources of support, and threatening or holding hostage of a victim’s children. Seasoning is designed to break down a victim’s resistance and ensure compliance.
Squaring Up — Attempting to escape or exit prostitution.
Stable — A group of victims who are under the control of a single pimp.
The Game/The Life — The subculture of prostitution, complete with rules, a hierarchy of authority, and language. Referring to the act of pimping as ‘the game’ gives the illusion that it can be a fun and easy way to make money, when the reality is much harsher. Women and girls will say they’ve been “in the life” if they’ve been involved in prostitution for a while.
Track (a.k.a Stroll or Blade) — An area of town known for prostitution activity. This can be the area around a group of strip clubs and pornography stores, or a particular stretch of street.
Trade Up/Trade Down — To move a victim like merchandise between pimps. A pimp may trade one girl for another or trade with some exchange of money.
Trick — Committing an act of prostitution (verb), or the person buying it (noun). A victim is said to be “turning a trick” or “with a trick.”
Turn Out — To be forced into prostitution (verb) or a person newly involved in prostitution (noun).
Wifeys/Wife-in-Law/Sister Wife — What women and girls under the control of the same pimp call each other. (See Family/Folks and Stable.)