Human Trafficking

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking affects individuals across the world, including here in the United States, and is commonly regarded as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. Human trafficking is happening everywhere – in suburbs, rural towns and cities.  Human trafficking affects every community in the United States across age, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds. 

Sex trafficking victims are manipulated or forced against their will to engage in sex acts for money.  Sex traffickers might use violence, threats, manipulation, or the promise of love and affection to lure victims.  Truck stops, hotel rooms, rest areas, street corners, clubs, and private residences are just some of the places where victims are forced to sell sex. 

The law says that sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (22 USC § 7102).

Labor trafficking victims experience force, fraud or coercion and are made to work for little or no pay.  Very often, victims are forced to manufacture or grow products that we use and consume every day.  Victims of forced labor could be found in factories, on farms, doing construction work and more.  Some victims of forced labor are forced to work in homes across the US as nannies, maids or domestic help.  

The law says that labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, (22 USC § 7102).


Possible Indicators of Human Trafficking? 

Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Here are some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking:

  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.


Human Trafficking Victims in Georgia

Human trafficking is a problem affecting marginalized and vulnerable populations in the state of Georgia. The Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center analyzed eight major cities in the United States and cited Atlanta as having the largest underground commercial sex economy in 2007 estimated at $290 million.  In 2014, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation survey of law enforcement, indicated 190 cases of human trafficking, including sex and labor trafficking, documented by state-wide law enforcement agencies. A study issued in 2014 by the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), reported 518 cases of sex and labor trafficking victims served by 40 individual agencies in CY 2012. Of those 518 cases: 341 were identified as domestic victims; 253 were adult victims, and 265 were child victims; 466 were victims of sex trafficking. 

Trafficking victims experience persistent trauma and stress as a result of their victimization, which expands beyond the sexual abuse they encountered and includes continuous psychological, physical and emotional abuse by their traffickers. Trafficking victims are less stable, more isolated, and have higher levels of fear, more severe trauma, greater mental health needs and fewer resources available than other victims of crime.  The U.S. Department of State cites the level of trauma experienced by trafficking victims is “in the same range as treatment-seeking combat veterans and victims of state-organized torture.” 

Human trafficking is a hidden crime as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement.  Traffickers look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.  Traffickers sometimes take a victim’s identification papers or travel documents in order to limit their freedom. 


Professional Groups Encountering Human Trafficking Victims

There are many groups of professionals who might encounter human trafficking victims in the regular course of their work.  There are existing protocols that are available to professional groups to guide their interactions and services to human trafficking victims or suspected human trafficking victims.  This website hosts protocols for professional groups based on location in Georgia. 

  • Hotlines for Trafficking Victims:
    • Statewide Georgia Hotline for Domestic Minors – 844-842-3678
    • Georgia Hotline for Adult Victims – 404 941 6024
    • National Human Trafficking Hotline – 888-373-7888