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More Trafficking Survivors Reaching Out for Help

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 30, 2020) The National Human Trafficking Hotline saw a nearly 20 percent increase last year in the victims and survivors who contacted us directly, according to a data analysis by Polaris, which has operated the Trafficking Hotline since 2007. The data also very clearly shows the growing importance of SMS/text as a means of communication for those seeking support from the Trafficking Hotline. In 2019, the number of text communications with the Trafficking Hotline grew 62 percent over the previous year.

“Victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking know their situations and their needs better than anyone and when they themselves reach out to us, we are in the best possible position to help. These numbers are a positive sign that the message ‘help is available’ is getting to the people who need to hear it most,” said Megan Cutter, Acting Director of the National Human Trafficking Hotline. “The explosive growth of text as a form of communication also bodes well for survivors and victims, suggesting that this somewhat more private means of communications may make it more likely that even more people in need will feel safe seeking help from the Trafficking Hotline.”

Overall, the Trafficking Hotline learned of 11,500 situations of human trafficking in 2019 – a 5 percent increase over last year’s figures. 

This is the second year in a row in which the Trafficking Hotline has handled more than 10,000 trafficking situations. Other key highlights of the 2019 data include: 

  • Sex trafficking remains the most reported type of trafficking compared to labor trafficking. In 2019, Polaris recorded 8,248 sex trafficking situations, compared with 7,850 in 2018. 
  • The number of labor trafficking situations reported remained virtually the same as last year. Polaris believes that this is in part because there is less awareness about labor trafficking and also because foreign nationals – even those with visas to work legally in the United States – are likely not reporting their situations because they fear deportation or other retaliation from their employers. 
  • In 2019, 48,326 individual trafficking-related contacts were made with Polaris, 8,412 of which were through the texting service. Texting is the second-most preferred way of contacting the Trafficking Hotline after phone calls.
  • In sex trafficking situations, the most common risk-factor was substance use or abuse followed by being a runaway or homeless youth. In labor trafficking situations, the most important risk factor was recent migration. 
  • The total situations of human trafficking identified since Polaris started administrating the Trafficking Hotline is 63,380. 
  • More detailed data for all 50 states and D.C. can be accessed here.
  • Download a fact sheet with a deeper analysis of the 2019 data, including demographic information here.

BACKGROUND: The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a 24/7, confidential, and multilingual lifeline that provides support and a variety of options for survivors of human trafficking to get connected to help and stay safe. Through a network of nearly 4,000 partner service providers and trusted law enforcement, trained Hotline Advocates take tips of suspected human trafficking and help survivors build plans so they can safely leave their situations or get the help they need to rebuild their lives. The Trafficking Hotline can communicate via phone in more than 200 languages through a translation service, as well as text, chat, email, and webform in English and Spanish. The Trafficking Hotline is operated by Polaris and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other donors.

The Trafficking Hotline provides the largest known data set on sex and labor trafficking in the United States. The Trafficking Hotline exists first and foremost to provide support to trafficking victims and survivors. Data collection is secondary and information is only collected if it is necessary to provide that support. Trafficking situations learned about through the Trafficking Hotline likely represent only a small subset of actual trafficking occurring in the United States. Therefore, this data must not be confused with the prevalence of human trafficking in the United States.

People can be connected to help or report a tip of suspected human trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, texting “BeFree” (233733), or chatting at

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