Human trafficking and sexual exploitation: A global human rights and gender justice crisis.

Every day in America, tens of thousands of people are trafficked and sexually exploited. Millions more are bought and sold in regions across the globe. The global sex trade is a billion-dollar on-and-offline industry where every dollar of profit is fueled by human pain.

This isn’t just a tragedy. It’s a form of modern-day slavery. And it’s happening here.

From the runaway teen coerced into prostitution by someone he or she believes to be a boyfriend, to the undocumented worker stripped of her passport and held against her will, to the economically vulnerable person “working” the street or local strip in order to make ends meet, exploitation can take many and varied forms. The constant? The short and long-term damage done to those who have been or are being bought, sold, or exploited.

If you think these are “victimless crimes,” think again.

The vast majority of those in the sex trade entered it before their 15th birthday, often after leaving homes where they experienced abuse or neglect. In many cases, those who enter the sex trade have experienced poverty, educational difference, and failures in the foster care system. Most who are prostituted or trafficked will experience further violence or neglect at the hands of traffickers, pimps, and johns.  Put another way, human trafficking and sexual exploitation are human rights issues, fueled by gender, racial, and income inequalities. It is rare that those who enter the sex trade have done so by choice.

The truth about the sex trade is often at odds with media-perpetuated myths.

One of the more striking aspects of the national conversation we are having about human trafficking and sexual exploitation is the degree to which public attitudes and beliefs are informed by media-perpetuated myths. Too often, the sex trade is glamourized, and its risks are minimized (think “Pretty Woman,” “Cathouse” or “The Girlfriend Experience”).

And while the vast majority of those in the sex trade say they entered after being coerced or because of economic need, the storylines we are most often exposed to reinforce a very different idea: that commercial sexual exploitation is a victimless crime, or the product of individual agency or choice.

The Ugly Truth campaign was created to provide a fact-based, counter-narrative to that storyline, reminding the public that for the vast majority of those in the sex trade, there is nothing glamorous or victimless about it

Just the facts: Human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation by the numbers.

The number of human trafficking calls received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2017.
Up to %
of prostituted women and girls are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
cases of human trafficking were identified in 2017. Seventy-one percent were sex trafficking cases.
%
of trafficked women report being subjected to physical violence.
11-15 years old is the average age of entry into prostitution found in most U.S. research studies.

62% were diagnosed with PTSD
42% attempted suicide
76% experience anxiety
89% experience depression
68% suffer from flashbacks
63% of child sex trafficking victims surveyed on one study had been advertised online.