Sex trafficking in US

Exposing the hidden form of American slavery; Sex Trafficking

According the US Department of State, modern slavery takes many forms, one of which is sex trafficking[1]. This form, in addition to many others, is mainly centered on American citizens, and mainly white citizens. Although people who became victims of sex trafficking are often considered a hidden population, some statistics do exist even if they constitute a fraction of the number of victims of such crimes. Relying upon these statistics, we can gain insight into a horrible aspect of the free world. Stories of teenage girls who have become victims of sex trafficking may have caught your attention, but these are only cases of those who have managed to escape or get rescued. The reality is that these victims don’t manage to live longer than three years, as they are often beaten by the pimp who controls them or by their customers, who often practice their own types of violence. These girls are not in this business through their own consent, but are often lured into sex trafficking through fraudulent job offers over the internet. The sex trafficking industry is a multibillion dollar business that transports and enslaves hundreds of thousands of women each year. Sex trafficking and sexual abuse is another form of slavery which existed in the past and is still used in the modern world. The FBI announced in 2011 that there were 293,000 American children at risk of being sexually abused[2]. Forty percent of these cases involved prostitution of a child or child sexual exploitation[3]. These numbers are mainly related to American citizens, not foreign nationals; statistics show that 83% of victims of this crime were American nationals[4].


According to associate professor of women’s issues and human trafficking Anchalee Panigabutra-Roberts, sex trafficking incidents are much more numerous than labor trafficking incidents in the US. Eighty-two percent of human trafficking victims in the US are related to sex trafficking, while 21% are related to other forms of trafficking[5]. Kimberly Kotrla, assistant professor of social work also points out that substantial numbers of minors and American youth have fallen victim to human trafficking in the United States every year. She states that there are at least 100,000 US children under the age of 18 who are victims of commercial sex, which is a part of the criminal act of human trafficking[6].  While these are formal numbers, experts contend that these people are an invisible population and it is impossible to know their exact numbers.


Neoliberalism and globalization are contributors to modern-day slavery and human trafficking[7]. Michael A. Peters, Emeritus Professor in Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says of neoliberalism, which is the dominant political philosophy of the western world, that it “involves a return to a primitive form of individualism: an individualism which is ‘competitive’, ‘possessive’ and construed often in terms of the doctrine of consumer sovereignty”[8]. Although it is believed that neoliberalism creates freedom, it has produced more of the “bad freedom”. As Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at CUNY David Harvey puts it:


“The fullness of freedom for those whose income, leisure and security need no enhancing, and a mere pittance of liberty for the people, who may in vain attempt to make use of their democratic rights to gain shelter from the power of the owners of property”[9].


Globalization is also considered as a tool for more freedom for the rich people to exploit the poor. According to new studies by OXFAM, 62 persons have the same amount of wealth as half of the world[10]. This huge and ongoing accumulation of wealth has caused unemployment, misery and desperation among developing and underdeveloped nations. This unequal and unbalanced wealth accumulation causes some people from underdeveloped countries to be forced into migrating to a place to work in the so-called free world, which sometimes leads them to become victims of modern slavery. There are several stories of persons whose extreme poverty has led them to voluntarily submit themselves into slavery; it is not voluntary in the sense that a person wants to participate in such a life, but that there is no other choice for them. Extreme poverty erases any opportunity for legitimate means of making money and leading a normal life. In most cases, such a poor quality of life leads to human trafficking, sex trafficking and forced labor. This can be an endless cycle which is impossible to break. This is how the freedom of “the few” leads to exploitation of others, in order to make economic gains without serving or returning anything to the community for the greater good. In this way, neoliberalism has betrayed the cause for which it is fighting. Professor of anthropology Aihwa Ong argued that neoliberalism has generated “successive degrees of insecurity for low-skilled citizens and migrants who will have to look beyond the state for the safeguarding of their rights”[11].

The US is a cheerleader in implementing a neoliberal policy and in line with this policy, we can see that the US has never developed an immigration strategy that effectively deals with the forces that drive migration. In addition, the US has also encouraged human trafficking and has played a role in generating a viable market for trafficking. This requires express recognition that specific elements of US law and policy actually facilitate the trafficking of human beings into and within the United States. Looking at the current US labor and immigration laws,it is expressly evident that they actually create incentives for trafficking and  other forms of migrant exploitation in the United States[12].


The criminal penalties levied for drug trafficking are far greater than the ones for criminals who traffic in girls. These traffickers are rarely arrested and put on trial. Instead of the traffickers, the victims, who are largely children, are relegated to the juvenile justice system and criminalized for being raped and trafficked. This is the abused child who is going to be incarcerated for abuse perpetrated against them[13]. The United States is lagging behind the rest of the world in addressing these issues.


Former US president, Jimmy Carter, in his book A Call to Action describes the discriminatory view that permeates the American culture, which leads to widespread sexual abuse in American colleges and points to the fact that 95% of the victims remain silent:


“A report funded by the US Justice Department found that more than 95% of students who are sexually assaulted remain silent, a much larger proportion than among the general public. The report’s analysis, conducted at the State University of New York in New Paltz, revealed that an institution of that size, with about 8,000 students would be expected to have more than 1,700 female victims of rape or sexual assault during the eleven years of the study. However, only six students reported a sexual assault to the office responsible for initiating proceedings, and only three cases resulted in a campus hearing---with one male student expelled”[14].

Protesters hold child sex trafficking rally outside of Supreme Court in Olympia, Washington.

Carter also considers the United States partly responsible for perpetrating the ongoing violence against women around the world, since the US hold such a great international influence[15]. He also turns to the role Christianity has played in these crimes, while he utterly mentions that Islam is free from discrimination against women:


“The relegation of women to an inferior or circumscribed status by many religious leaders is one of the primary reasons for the promotion and perpetuation of sexual abuse. If potential male exploiters of women are led to believe that their victim is considered inferior or “different” even by God they can presume that it must be permissible to take advantage of their superior male status. It is crucial that devout believers abandon the premise that their faith mandates sexual discrimination. Islamic scholars assure me that there is no justification for this discrimination in the Koran, but there are specific verses in the Holy Bible that be interpreted on either side of the issue, and some ascendant males leaders in all faiths take advantage of the interpretation most beneficial to them.”









[1] What is Modern Slavery? U.S. Department of State. [Online] [Cited: 01 24, 2016.]

[2] Walker-Rodriguez, Amanda and Hill, Rodney. Human Sex Trafficking. The Federal Bureau of Investigation. [Online] 03 2011. [Cited: 01 23, 2016.]

[3] Banks, Duren and Kyckelhahn, Tracey. Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics . [Online] 04 2011. [Cited: 01 23, 2016.]

[4] McCarthy, Kara. Most Suspected Incidents of Human Trafficking Involved Allegations of Prostitution of an Adult or Child. Department of Justice. [Online] 04 28, 2011. [Cited: 01 23, 2016.]

[5] Human Trafficking in the United States. Part I. State of the Knowledge. Panigabutra-Roberts, Anchalee (Joy). pp. 138–151;, Nebraska : Faculty Publications, UNL Liberaries, 2012, Vol. 31. doi:10.1080/01639269.2012.736330.

[6] Sex Trafficking of Minors in the U.S.: Implications for Policy, Prevention and Research. Kotrla, Kimberly. 1, s.l. : Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, 2011, Vol. 2. Available at:

[7] Modern-Day Slavery and Human Trafficking: An Overlooked Issue. Kuhl, Michelle. s.l. : Pell Scholars and Senior Theses, 2011. Available at:

[8] Peters, Michael A. Poststructuralism, Marxism, and Neoliberalism: Between Theory and Politics. s.l. : Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. Available at:

[9] Harvey, David. Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. s.l. : Oxford University Press, 2014. Available at:

[10] Han, Esther. Sixty-two people have the same amount of wealth as half the world, says Oxfam. The Age. [Online] 01 18, 2016. [Cited: 01 23, 2016.]

[11] Ong, Aihwa. Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. s.l. : Duke University Press, 2006. Available at:

[12] Misery and Myopia: Understanding the Failures of U.S. Efforts to Stop Human Trafficking. Chacón, Jennifer M. Irvine : University of California, Davis School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series, 2009.

[13] Unknown. Girls, Human Trafficking, And Modern Slavery In America. Think Progress. [Online] 10 06, 2012. [Cited: 01 23, 2016.]

[14] Carter, Jimmy. A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. s.l. : Simon and Schuster, 2015. Available at:

[15] Culp-Ressler, Tara. Jimmy Carter: Violence Against Women Is The Most Pervasive Human Rights Violation In The World. Think Progress. [Online] 03 23, 2015. [Cited: 01 23, 2016.]


  • 2017-01-02 05:16
    While it is always important to run research articles on trafficking, so many of "facts" stated are without merit and legitimate research. In this modern day era of fact checking it is imperative that all efforts are delivered for the reader to get an accurate picture. Sex trafficking is now deemed to be less in the numbers than labor trafficking but sex gets more news space. Probably the number of children trafficked in the US is closer to 100,000. The United Nations states between 25% and 30% in the world are children. No such thing as people dying 3 years after entry. Sensational at best. Too bad for all the victims and survivors whose stories need to be understood.
  • 2020-02-21 13:42
    #Long life and perfect health to Syed Khamnai (our beloved leader).