While current stereotypes often depict the victims of human trafficking as innocent young girls who are seduced or kidnapped from their home countries and forced into the sex industry, it is not just young girls who are trafficked.
Men, women, and children of all ages can fall prey to traffickers for purposes of sex and/or labor. Victims may be trafficked into the United States from other countries or may be foreign citizens already in the United States (legally or illegally) who are desperate to make a living to support themselves and their families in the United States or in their home countries.
Regardless of gender, age, immigration status, or citizenship, certain commonalities exist among victims of trafficking (for both sex and labor), such as their vulnerability to force, fraud, or coercion. Traffickers prey on those with few economic opportunities and those struggling to meet basic needs. They take advantage of the unequal status of women and girls in disadvantaged countries and communities, and capitalize on the demand for cheap, unprotected labor and the promotion of sex tourism in some countries.
Victims of human trafficking, both international and domestic, share other characteristics that place them at risk for being trafficked. These include poverty, young age, limited education, lack of work opportunities, lack of family support (e.g., orphaned, runaway/throwaway, homeless, family members collaborating with traffickers), history of previous sexual abuse, health or mental health challenges, and living in vulnerable areas, especially areas with known police corruption and high crime.
Despite increased attention to the problem of human trafficking into, and most recently within, the United States, knowledge and understanding of the issue remains fairly limited. Research on trafficking has focused primarily on estimating the scale of the problem, mapping routes, and reviewing policies.
This is where SWEAT Network comes in. By banding together, each of us helping as we can will assist people worldwide.