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Defining Labor and Sex Trafficking

Human Trafficking is an ongoing pandemic across the globe. It’s everywhere.

Choosing to take action now is needed more than ever. One thing I know for sure, even the smallest action can make a huge difference.

If this is all new to you and you aren’t sure where to turn to learn and what to learn first, I understand. There’s a lot of information out there and it can be overwhelming.

Just trying to figure out where to start can be paralyzing. This blog post answers just a couple of beginning questions.

What is Labor Trafficking and what is Sex Trafficking?

First, here is a big picture look at trafficking.

A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations states,

“...The most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm.

“The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour (18%), although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labour is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation.

“Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children.” (1)

There is no specific definition for what a trafficker or a buyer looks. They come from all walks of life. Age, gender, race and economical status do not matter. Buyers may buy locally or travel. Traffickers go where the vulnerable are to steal lives to sell and they sell where buyers buy. Buyers buy from many options, for example, online, massage parlors and brothels. Family members will sell other family members. Gangs use their slaves to steal, sell, and for sex. It is big business. Tax free dollars. Reusable product. I know that is sick and hard to read. It is the truth of what is going on. This is just a small dose of the truth.

What is the difference between Labor and Sex Trafficking?

According to ECPAT-USA, an anti-child trafficking organization in the United States:

“Labor trafficking is transporting victims by coercion, threat, or fraud to perform labor services.

“Sex trafficking is the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” (2)

Polaris Project has identified 25 different types of human trafficking including, Escort Services, Illicit Massage, Health, & Beauty, Outdoor Solicitation, Residential Domestic Work, Bars, Strip Clubs, & Cantinas, Pornography, Traveling Sales Crews, Restaurants & Food Service to name just a few. There’s a link to learn more in Resources. (3)

Force, Fraud and Coercion are words filled with pain. The most insidious is Coercion.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that to Coerce someone is to “compel to an act or choice, to achieve by force or threat, and to restrain or dominate by force.” (4)

This is happening to our children by the millions.

“Traffickers use our southern border to bring slaves into our country

for the sex industry because the United States is one of the highest consumers

of child sex abuse content in the world.” Tim Ballard (5)

You now have an overview of the definitions of labor and sex trafficking and some beginning information about buyers and traffickers. I’ve added resources below to help you dig deeper. The sites I’ve listed are of organizations that I know and trust. Knowing these definitions is a great place to start.

Going forward. Maybe you’re like me, I knew Human Trafficking was happening but I had no idea what to do. My journey started with a flyer on the window at my chiropractor's office. I eagerly attended a viewing of the documentary, Call+Response, at the first Justice Summit in San Luis Obispo, California in 2012. I left that conference knowing more and with a starting point for helping. It’s been close to 8 years now. Trafficking is still the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. I cannot sit this out. I have to stand up and work to make a change, no matter how small.

My involvement has evolved from talking to people and selling products (Better Way Designs) made and sold by women brought out of trafficking to teaming up with Susan Carter to form North County Abolitionists. We held workshops and hosted events and documentary viewings. Susan is now the President and works hard to help in the fight to end human trafficking in San Luis Obispo County. I have turned my focus to strengthening those in the movement by helping them to be more productive and effective. I work with people who want to change the world but aren’t sure how best to apply their life skills and experience. I also speak and train. I write and share and work to get the word out. There is something we can do. We are stronger together but each of us must first choose to take action.

"All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

Abraham Lincoln

For years I identified myself as someone who wanted to be a voice for the voiceless. Though my heart was in the right place, I was way off. I needed to learn and become more aware so I could say what is really necessary and best for those who cannot speak for themselves. What I really want for those whose voices have been taken from them, to have a voice. I want them to be able to speak. I want them to be heard. I’d like for you to join me in this fight.

You hold the Key.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions. If you would like to know more about how I can help you please explore my website:

Please add this number into your phone.

National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.373.7888

Resources used for this blog post--






Additional Resources--

Shared Hope:

Polaris Project:

Operation Underground Railroad:

Better Way Designs:




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