The Victims


Of the 4,460 cases called into the human trafficking hotline in 2017, 3,698 victims were females (83%), 607 were male (14%), and 3% unknown. 2,812 victims were adults (63%), 1,438 under the age of 18 (32%), and 5% unknown. As we have seen in the statistics from Texas, the percentages of gender and age can vary depending upon the environment of the state.

Polaris Project. Human Trafficking. Available at: Accessed November 1, 2013

Individuals at risk

Trafficking affects persons in every demographic, but some individuals are more vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers than others. The following are factors that have been found to be precursor of individuals becoming victims of trafficking;

How do victims get lured?

Traffickers make false promises to potential victims.  They could promise a loving relationship, a lucrative job, a better place to live, U.S. citizenship, a wonderful career like modeling or dancing, gifts of clothing or jewelry (Macias-Konstantopoulos, 2015).  Sometimes traffickers approach parents or other family members forcing young daughters, sisters, or nieces to sell sex.

Brittany met a man at her local mall who offered her a job at his restaurant. Instead of working as a waitress, Brittany was forced to sell sex in a hotel room (Polaris, 2015)

Numerous news outlet reported on an American Airlines press release about an agent who became suspicious when two teenage girls, 15 and 17, were at her ticket counter.  They had no identification or adult guardians, but each had a first-class ticket to New York City from Sacramento purchased for them.  The name of the purchaser did not match the names of either of the girls.  The agent reported the situation to her supervisor and the authorities.  The girls had been promised by a man they met on Instagram $2,000 for modeling in music videos in New York.  The girls were surprised to learn the tickets were one-way only.  The authorities believe the girls lives were saved from being trafficked by the agent who had had training in identifying human trafficking potential and actual victims.

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Some individuals are more vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers than others.


What makes victims stay

Most trafficking victims are in unfamiliar environments without family or friends. Some cannot speak the language of the local area. Traffickers often confiscate visas or passports. Victims can grow to not trust anyone because of the continuous exposure to lies and manipulations.

Here are some additional reasons:

Researchers who have interviewed survivors of trafficking believe Biderman’s Framework of coercion matches many of the psychosocial approaches used by traffickers. These techniques keep victims in check.

Isolation of the victim by depriving them of social support, creating dependency on the trafficker and focusing on the needs of the trafficker.

Monopolization of perception including the victim’s predicament, and results of not complying with the perpetrator.

Debilitation and exhaustion from starvation, sleep deprivation, tension and fear of the perpetrator weakening physical and psychological ability to resist.

Threats which induce fear.

Occasional indulgences which reinforces the omnipotence of the perpetrator providing intermittent reinforcement.

Omnipotence of the perpetrator through words and control reinforcing futility of leaving.

Devaluing the person through words and actions.

Creating trivial demands which reinforces compliance (Biderman, 1973; Baldwin, Fehrenbacher & Eisenman, 2014).

Baldwin, Fehrenbacher, and Eisenman (2015) in interviews with 12 adult women trafficked in LA County found they reported isolation, monopolization of perception, induced debility or exhaustion, threats, occasional indulgences, demonstration of omnipotence, degradation and enforcement of trivial demands. The results of these coercive tactics reinforced the submission of trafficked persons to their perpetrator with long term psychological problems.

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Biderman’s Framework of coercion includes which of the following psychosocial approaches that can be used by traffickers.

Isolation of the victim
Creating debilitation and exhaustion
Threats which induce fear
All the above