Familial Trafficking

Imagine you are a child again, only this time your home and the adults slated with caring for you are not safe. Imagine that your mom or dad or another family member is letting strange men harm you. Imagine that instead of protecting you, they are allowing this abuse to happen and often escalating it themselves.  This is familial trafficking.

Human trafficking by law is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor of commercial sex act. Sometimes the exploiter is someone within the child’s family. The Federal Human Trafficking Report for 2019 indicated that 76% of the victims under the 10 years old were trafficked by a family member [source]. According to the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC) nearly half of identified trafficking cases that involved a child started with some level of family member involvement [source].

There is a wide misconception that a parent will always sacrifice everything to protect their child, which in turn makes familial trafficking hard to believe and even harder to detect.

What We Know
  •  This form of trafficking is more prevalent in rural communities that are experiencing poverty. In these situations, the child may be traded in exchange for the rent.
  •  In some cases, there are cultural or generational aspects at play. This may just be the “family business” or there may be belief that this is a cultural passage into womanhood.
  •   The opioid epidemic has played a role in increasing this form of trafficking.
  • Research shows that 64% of the children trafficked by a family member are done so by their mother who is assisted by a nonrelative exploiter. Of these cases 82% were done so in exchange for drugs [source].
  •  Children that have been victims of familial trafficking tend to have some involvement in the child welfare system (often referrals for potential neglect), truancy issues, some involvement with law enforcement, juvenile justice, homeless shelters, or other social services. They may also have a history of emergency department visits with frequent injuries or sexually transmitted infections.

The complex trauma associated with familial trafficking is unique. The amount of continued abuse experienced by any sex trafficking victim leads to severe complex trauma, however, if the victim is trafficked by a family member this adds another level of trauma and mistrust. The adult that breaks the trust naturally found between child and caregiver creates lasting health, well-being, and relationship issues within that child.

What You Can Do
  • Learn the indicators associated with sex trafficking especially if you work with young people – you can access the Guardian Seal® Intro Course here.
  • Report potential trafficking situations to local law enforcement, let them know if you think the family is involved.
  • Raise your voice and advocate for these children by educating others around you to not only the dangers of sex trafficking but to the realities of familial trafficking as well.
  • Donate to organizations that are actively working to protect children from this form of exploitation. You can support Guardian Group here.

Join us today and help protect America’s children.