Sex Trafficking In America The Statistics

Unlike other statistics you have come across in your life, the following stats have a pulse; they are America’s daughters, sisters, nieces and sometimes America’s sons as well.

Sex trafficking is a complex crime that is under reported and under studied, however, progress is being made in trying to change this. A great first step in gaining an overview of the depth of sex trafficking here in the United States is to understand the statistics that have been discovered through good research.

For every number you see below please remember that it is not simply a number but instead represents a person; a person that has a name, that had goals and dreams for their life and needs someone to fight for them.

Sex Trafficking
  • The fastest growing criminal industry in the world is the buying and selling of people. [1]

There are two main differences between the drug trade and illegal arms industry and trafficking that are causing it to outpace growth of the other two. First, the risks associated are much lower. Victims of this crime often make a poor witness if it must go to trial due to the extensive trauma they endure, and the length of jail time is typically lower as well. Second, human traffickers have a reusable product in a person whereas the other two criminal industries are always in need of more supply.

  • Child sex trafficking has been reported in all 50 states. [2]

Domestic minor sex trafficking is happening in every country, state, city, rural town, small community… including the place you call home. No one is immune

  • 150,000 new escort ads are posted online in America every day. [3]

Among this massive number of ads are children who are bought and sold for sex. Law enforcement across the nation do not have sufficient time and adequate resources to comb through these ads and put a true identity to the victims hidden in this haystack. Guardian Group exists to relieve this burden for law enforcement across the country.


Victims of Sex Trafficking
  • The average age of entry into the sex trade is 15 years old for females, it is believed to be younger for males, with 1 in 6 being under the age of 12. [3]

What is every 15-year-old girl looking for? Love, understanding and acceptance coupled with low self-esteem; these factors combined with a brain that is not fully developed to make logical decisions yet makes her a good target.

  • Over half of the victims in 2021 federally prosecuted cases were minors. [4]

This is a crime that is impacting our children at higher rates. Children are more easily manipulated making them more vulnerable to this type of crime.

 Sex Traffickers
  • 71% of traffickers have more than one victim. [3]

Traffickers run what they call a “stable” which is typically 3-5 girls at a time. When you place a trafficker behind bars you most often are not just impacting the life of one victim but potentially countless.

  • 85% of victims reported developing a close relationship with their trafficker. [3]

This portrays the Romeo Pimp tactic of manipulating and nurturing a relationship with their victim. They manipulate their victim into believing they are truly in a romantic relationship by buying them gifts, taking them out to eat and spoiling them in some form. This tactic creates a bond between victim and trafficker.


How Someone Becomes a Trafficking Victim 
  • Over the last 5 years the internet has served as the number one place for traffickers to find their victims. Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram being the top 3 platforms used. [4]

The amount of information we freely offer to the world about ourselves makes it easier for traffickers to find their next victim without ever leaving the couch. Predators troll social sites to try and spot vulnerabilities, they are good at it, our goal is to be better to prevent potential victims. A statement such as “My parents are the worst” or “I’m so over school” allows the predator to connect, relate and offer a solution to the victim.

  • 42% of victims report that their trafficker earned their trust within 1 month of meeting. Another 28% report the trafficker earned their trust within 4 months of meeting. [3]

Traffickers specialize in using a victim’s vulnerability to connect. They use this connection to build trust and eventually to manipulate and control.


How Does Sex Trafficking Happen
  • 75% of victims report being sold online. [3]

Traffickers utilize escort sites to advertise their victims. The ability to advertise on the internet has allowed this crime to scale at a much faster rate. This crime exists on the surface web and in some situations can be as simple as ordering an item from a store.

  • One in four victims who were advertised online reported more than 10 buyers per day. [3]

Let us put this into perspective… 10 buyers per day is better said as 10 rapes per day. As a culture we understand the trauma associated with one unwanted sexual encounter, now multiple this by 10 every single day. The amount of complex trauma victims of sex trafficking is experiencing is unfathomable and often plays a significant role in her ability to leave as well as her recovery after.


What is being done to stop sex trafficking?
  • 44% of victims reported no one reached out and offered them help with another 26% reporting rarely ever being offered help. [3]

We as a community must do better. It is time to educate our population and be willing to say something when we see something that looks suspicious.

  • 2/3 of victims report never seeing a helpline number [3]

While we do know that victims of trafficking rarely self-report. The opportunity must be made available, know the National Human Trafficking Hotline number 800.373.7888 and share it.


How can I stop Sex Trafficking?


Sex trafficking is a topic that once you learn that it exists you cannot unlearn it and often you cannot ignore it. There are several active roles you can play in the solution; however, we always recommend you learn more first. Start with the information found here and here.

Once you are equipped with good information start raising your voice! Educate others on what you have learned. Reach out to your local elected officials and ask what is being done to protect your community from these predators. Start the conversation within your sphere of influence.

If you have time and want to volunteer with Guardian Group’s PURSUIT® team, learn more a about the Project 1591® process and platform here.

Lastly support organizations working in this space. Guardian Group’s vision is that every child in the US lives free from sex trafficking, this vision cannot be accomplished without partnerships from individuals like yourself. Learn about all the ways to give and join the fight today!



[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Human Trafficking Fact Sheet [PDF].

[2] National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (2021). Child Sex Trafficking. Retrieved from

[3] Thorn (2018, January). Survivor Insights: The Role of Technology in Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking [PDF].

[4] Lane, et al., 2021 Federal Human Trafficking Report, Human Trafficking Institute (2022)