Why Trafficking Exists

Like drugs and arms trafficking, human trafficking is a market-driven criminal industry that is based on the principles of supply and demand. Many factors make children and adults vulnerable to human trafficking. However, human trafficking does not exist solely because many people who are vulnerable to exploitation. Instead, human trafficking is fueled by a demand for cheap labor or services, or for commercial sex acts. Human traffickers are those who victimize others in their desire to profit from the existing demand.  To ultimately solve the problem of human trafficking, it is essential to address these demand-driven factors, as well as to alter the overall market incentives of high-profit and low-risk that traffickers currently exploit.

Why does demand thrive?
Labor trafficking and sex trafficking of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals persist and thrive for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Low Risk: When the community is unaware of this issue, when government and community institutions are not trained to respond, when there are ineffective or dormant laws to address the crime, when safety nets for victims do not exist, and when law enforcement does not  investigate and prosecute the crime, human traffickers perceive little risk or deterrence to affect their criminal operations.
  2. High Profits: When individuals are willing to buy commercial sex, they create a market and make it profitable for traffickers to sexually exploit children and adults.
    When consumers are willing to buy goods and services from industries that rely on forced labor, they create a profit incentive for labor traffickers to maximize revenue with minimal production costs.
Left unchecked, human trafficking will continue to flourish in environments where traffickers can reap substantial monetary gains with relatively low risk of getting caught.

Demand For Labor Trafficking: What You Need To Know

Human trafficking victims make an alarmingly high number of consumer goods and food products that are both imported to the United States and produced domestically.  More often than we realize, somewhere in the supply chain of the products we buy, elements of exploitative child labor or forced labor may be present.  As economies around the world integrate, it has become faster and easier for goods produced with forced labor to enter the global market. In the U.S., labor traffickers exploit and enslave both foreign nationals (some of whom enter the U.S. legally) and U.S. citizens. Click here for a list of industries where labor trafficking occurs.

In many cases of labor trafficking, consumers provide the demand, and thus the profit incentive, to the traffickers.  These consumers can include companies that subcontract certain types of services, end-consumers who buy cheap goods produced by trafficking victims, or individuals who use the services of trafficking victims. By changing purchasing choices and asking questions about how our products were made, consumers have the power to reduce these types of demand and help stop human trafficking.


Demand For Sex Trafficking: What You Need To Know

Individuals who buy commercial sex acts create the demand for sex trafficking. Click here for a list of venues within the commercial sex industry in which sex trafficking has been found to take place.

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.



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Client Quotes

"Thanks to Polaris Project, I have a job, a home, and many friends that help me when I need it. I am making a life of my own."


- Survivor of Labor Trafficking & Client of Polaris