Big Fight on Sex Trafficking

Reduce Sex Trafficking in 25 U.S. Cities

For two decades, anti trafficking efforts in the United States have sought to identify and support victims and bring traffickers to justice. These approaches are critical in the lives of individual survivors but will never decrease the actual volume of sex trafficking in the United States. To accomplish that more sweeping goal, we have to fix the broken systems that fail to meet the needs of so many people, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking and fundamentally shift accountability for trafficking away from victims and to buyers and traffickers.

We are working toward a world with greater accountability for sex buying and trafficking and a society populations at-risk for or experiencing trafficking will receive the support and services they need to break complex cycles of poverty, abuse, and exploitation that keep them vulnerable.

The Problem

Since 2015 the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline has identified 54,853 situations of sex trafficking. Those are the situations we actually learn about. How much more is really out there is unknown. But we know it is too much. Through the Trafficking Hotline, we provide the victims in those situations with help and support, but for most, the trauma is deep and the healing difficult. A far better outcome would be to prevent the trafficking situation from happening in the first place.

55,229

HUMAN TRAFFICKING SITUATIONS

January 2015 – December 2020

82,527

HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIMS

January 2015 – December 2020

The Plan to Reduce Sex Trafficking

We will reduce sex trafficking in 25 U.S. cities by working with and supporting local partners to

Expand the societal safety net available to vulnerable populations and trafficking victims to reduce their risk of being trafficked and increase avenues for exit.

Shift legal accountability for trafficking to sex buyers and traffickers, and away from victims and potential victims.

Change norms around sex buying to remove victim stigmatization, influence sex buyer behavior, support the shift in criminal accountability to sex buyers.

Help Now

Expanding the Societal Safety Net

The work in the following three communities begins a 25-city strategy to prevent sex trafficking before it happens by understanding what makes people vulnerable to the advances of those who would exploit them. Armed with a better understanding of their potential role in the anti-trafficking ecosystem, advocates, survivors, and community leaders go through a structured process to determine focus areas for reducing trafficking, ultimately turning ideas into reality and stopping sex trafficking before it starts.

Louisville, Kentucky

Problem: Kiara* was sexually assaulted as a very young child and abused mentally, physically and sexually for years before she was removed from the family home. The living situations that came next weren’t much better – and didn’t address the trauma she had suffered. The drugs that were her only real coping mechanism became a full blown opioid addiction that pushed her into the open arms of a sex trafficker.

Solution: Support community efforts to establish residential facilities that provide stable homes with onsite services for minors and young adults at risk for trafficking; work with landlords and housing advocates to create more flexibility in the rental process for youth who age out of the child welfare system but can’t find independent housing while they get on their feet.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Problem: Stefani’s* daughter ran away from home to be with the trafficker who claimed to love her then sold her for sex. When police picked the girl up, Stefani was told to come bring her daughter home. If she didn’t, under local law a warrant would be issued for Stefani, and her daughter would be sent to a juvenile detention facility. Stefani knew she couldn’t keep her daughter safe. The girl would run back to the trafficker the moment she had the chance, but Stefani had no good options.

Solution: Work with state and local governments to change the law on issuing warrants and create a system of safe, supportive respite housing for at-risk youth.

San Diego, California

Problem: Dan’s* impoverished mother sold him for sex with older men. For years after, he struggled to manage the trauma and his own identity as a gay man. With few positive people in his life, and less self esteem, he got involved with gangs and drifted in and out of trafficking situations and “the life” for years, well into adulthood.

Solution: Support the LGTBQ+ community in San Diego in their efforts to ensure there are enough dedicated safe spaces with supportive services available for LGTBQ+ youth at risk for trafficking in every area of the city and surrounding county.

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons

Additional Resources

Need help? Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.