Escort Services

"The ICE-led investigation began in November 2008, after a 14-year-old victim of the escort service run by Pierre was rescued in Fort Lauderdale. Subsequently, another 16-year-old victim of Pierre's escort service was discovered. Pierre operated a prostitution ring disguised as an escort service from his Ft. Lauderdale residence."

- 2009 ICE Press Release


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A victim under the age of 18 is considered a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of the presence of force, fraud or coercion.

Escort services or agencies are one venue through which victims of sex trafficking may be forced to provide commercial sex.  This includes “out-call” services where the individual goes to the location of the "john," or “in-call” services where the "john" comes to the individual's location.  An agency, pimp, or other controller typically arranges appointments, and may monitor the victim and take some or all of the earnings.  Escorts are typically female, though some are male.  They may be adults or minors, U.S. citizens or immigrants.  Escort services are commonly advertised online through specific escort websites as well as general sites such as backpage.com and other media.

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An agency, pimp, or other controller typically arranges appointments, and may monitor the escort and take some or all of the earnings.

A 22-year-old woman began working at an exotic dance club.  After a few months, she was approached by a recruiter, who told her that she could make more money as part of his escort agency.  The young woman initially agreed.  The recruiter posted advertisements for the women in the escort agency on backpage.com, and arranged meetings with clients.  The young woman was required to keep a cell phone with her at all times and check in with the recruiter every few hours.  When the young woman wanted to visit friends in another state, the recruiter threatened her and told her she had to keep working.  After a few months, the young woman decided she wanted to leave the situation. When the recruiter learned she had gone to a job interview, he physically assaulted her and threatened to harm her friends if she tried to leave again.

*Based on calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.  Identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality.

When does it become trafficking?

Trafficking occurs when the agency or pimp uses force, fraud, and/or coercion to maintain control over the escort and to cause the person to engage in commercial sex acts.  A victim under the age of 18 is considered a victim of sex trafficking regardless of the presence of force, fraud or coercion.  Common means of control include:

Force – Physical or sexual abuse, often in the form of repeated rapes by one or more people to create submission; confinement to the residence; restrictions on movement and communication to family and friends; frequent forced movement between cities.

Fraud – False promises of a better life through the trafficker presenting as a boyfriend or caretaker figure; false information about working conditions, payment, and whether commercial sex will be required; telling the victim that if he or she initially consented to be part of the escort service that he or she must continue to consent and is not a victim.

Coercion – Threats of harm to the victim or victim’s family; threats to shame the victim by revealing the commercial sex to his or her family and others in the community; verbal, psychological and emotional abuse; nightly quotas; confiscation of birth certificates and other identification documents; forced dependency on the pimp, agency or controller; exploitation of victims’ shame; rumors of or witnessed violence at hands of traffickers; cycle of rewards and punishments; convincing the victim that police/service providers will only see the victim as a prostitute and will arrest and not assist the victim; threats of deportation if victim is a foreign national.

*The above list is not comprehensive or cumulative.  One element of force, fraud or coercion may be present, or many.

Intersections with Other Sex Trafficking Networks

Latino Residential Brothels and Latino Escort "Delivery" Services – An escort “delivery” service model is closely related to the operation of residential brothels.  A brothel might convert into an escort service if a single residential location becomes known or targeted by law enforcement.  In the “outcall” or escort service model, the women are “delivered” to a buyer’s house, apartment, or hotel room, instead of the buyers going to a centralized location.

Pimp-Controlled Sex Trafficking – Pimps sometimes use an escort service model to facilitate commercial sex.  In addition to providing commercial sex through escort arrangements, victims are commonly required to provide commercial sex via street tracks , truck stops and other settings.  Regardless of the venue, victims are required to meet daily quotas and to hand over all earnings to their pimp.

Statistics Snapshot

While statistics on the scope of sex trafficking in escort services are not available, a 2008 study provides insight into the dynamics of the network.  Of the women and girls interviewed,  41% of the women and girls were escorts, and 28% started as escorts when first recruited into commercial sex. Ninety-three percent had pimps when they were first recruited.  Of the 41% who were escorts, 67% had experienced violence by their pimps and 59% said that they had been coerced.1

For more resources on sex trafficking, click here


1 Jody Raphael and Jessica Ashley. Domestic Sex Trafficking of Chicago Women and Girls. Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and DePaul University College of Law, 2008.  8, 10, 25.