At a Glance
8,759 cases of human trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline – a 13% increase in cases compared to 2016 – bringing the total number of cases reported to 40,987 since the Hotline's creation in 2007. The cases identified on these helplines comprise the largest publicly available data set on human trafficking in the United States. The data do not represent the full scope of human trafficking. Lack of awareness of the crime or of these resources in certain geographic regions, by particular racial or ethnic groups, and by labor trafficking survivors, can lead to significant underreporting.
Number of Victims Identified
In 2017, the National Hotline and BeFree Textline identified:
- 7,255 victims of sex trafficking
- 1,979 victims of labor trafficking
- 542 victims of both sex and labor trafficking
- 838 victims where the form of trafficking was unspecified
Additionally, more survivors contacted the National Hotline directly than ever before with 2,144 survivors reaching out for help. It is vital to continue to ensure that survivors are aware that help is available if they choose to access it.
Forms of Human Trafficking
The forms of human trafficking reported to the Hotline in 2017 were:
- 6,244 cases of sex trafficking
- 1,274 cases of labor trafficking
- 851 cases where the form of trafficking was not specified
- 390 cases of sex and labor trafficking
While reports of labor trafficking have increased dramatically over the past two years, Polaris strongly believes labor trafficking cases in the U.S. are chronically underreported due to a lack of awareness about the issue and a critical lack of recognition of the diverse vulnerability of workers in labor sectors across the U.S.
Top Types of Trafficking in 2017
In 2017, Polaris developed a classification system that identifies 25 distinct types of human trafficking in the United States. Of the 8,759 cases of trafficking reported in 2017, these are the top three types reported for each form of trafficking.
Sex Trafficking: Escort Services (1,572 cases), Residential (508 cases), Outdoor Solicitation (329 cases)
Labor Trafficking: Domestic Work (242 cases), Agriculture (134 cases), Peddling and Begging (109 cases)
Sex and Labor Trafficking: Illicit Massage Businesses (774 cases), Bar/Strip Club/Cantina (194 cases), Illicit Activities (104 cases)
Who are the Survivors?
Every year, more survivors are reaching out to the National Human Trafficking Hohtline and more individuals are seeking help for victims they know. As people disclosed more information about their own trafficking experiences or about potential victims for whom they were seeking support, hotline staff noted key elements. Individuals are never asked questions specifically for data collection purposes are are only asked to share what they are comfortable providing so that they can be connected to the support they want.
Top Risk Factors and Recruitment Tactics
The data from the 10,615 victim records give insight into the systems and tactics that traffickers use to conduct their business. Traffickers frequently prey on an individual's vulnerabilities, and the data spotlight factors that may have placed these victims at risk.
Top risk factors for human trafficking include recent migration/relocation, substance use, runaway/homeless youth, mental health concern, and involvement in the child welfare system.
Top recruitment tactics reported in 2017 include intimate partner/marriage proposition, familial, posing as benefactor, job offer, and false promises/fraud.
How Traffickers Control Their Victims
One of the most common questions we receive is, why don't victims just leave? In reality, traffickers utilize various methods of force, fraud, or coercion to trap their victims in a human trafficking situation. These control tactics can make the idea of leaving their situation seem like an insurmountable obstacle to trafficking victims.
The most common methods of force, fraud, or coercion reported to the Hotline in 2017 include isolation (including confinement), emotional abuse, economic abuse, threats of any kind, and physical abuse (non sexual).
Points of Access to Help for Survivors
Understanding how a victim accesses the outside world helps pinpoint systems where victims could find the support they need to leave their traffickers. The top five points of access to potential help identified on the Hotline include:
- Interaction with family/friends – 1,567 cases
- Interaction with law enforcement/criminal justice system – 1,047 cases
- Access to health services – 726 cases
- Access to general social services – 726 cases
- Access to mobile apps or social media – 496 cases