Sex Trafficking Statistics

We as a nation are struggling collectively to put an exact number on how many victims are experiencing the horrors of sex trafficking.  However, the things that we can measure are continuing to show us that this crime is running rampant in this country.

The following statistics have been done with good research or collected by a reliable hotline type source and generally ring true to what Guardian Group sees every day. Let’s break it down and see if we can get a better picture of just how massive this crime is…


Sex Trafficking

Child sex trafficking has been reported in all 50 states. [1]

This is no longer a crime that lives overseas despite what popular movies portray. This is a domestic problem requiring a national community-wide response. Data shows that more than 80% of victims identified in sex trafficking cases were born in the United States or living here legally [2]. Victims are victims regardless of nationality, no person should ever be sold as a commodity. However, this stat does prove the widely believed misconception that trafficking only happens to those who have crossed an international border.


The fastest growing criminal industry in the world is the buying and selling of people. [3]

This continued increase is for two reasons. First, there is a lower risk associated with selling people than with selling drugs or weapons. This lower risk comes from the ways our laws are written to punish these offenses as well as the fact that sex trafficking cases are harder to prosecute than a drug or weapons charge. The second reason for the increase is that predators know that selling a person is selling a reusable product verses the consistent supply issue associated with substances and weapons.


Victims of Sex Trafficking

The average age of entry into the sex trade is 15 years-old, with 1 in 6 being under the age of 12 years-old and it is believed to be younger for males. [4]

Traffickers are looking for vulnerabilities and someone they can easily manipulate and control. Teenagers unfortunately are a great target for this. Young people are looking for love, acceptance, popularity, understanding and they generally have lower self-esteem. Their brain is also not fully developed yet. The prefrontal cortex the part of the brain responsible for logical decision making will not fully develop until around 25 years of age. Meaning that the decision-making is being run by the amygdala which is responsible for emotional responses.

55% of survivors report that they attended school at some point during their exploitation. [4]

Victims of this crime exist in society just like everyone else. They are entering the same grocery stores, gas stations, banks, hotels, malls as the rest of us. They are walking down the same sidewalks… yet we are rarely recognizing what they are experiencing.


Buyers of Sex

20.6% of men have paid for sex at least once in their lifetime. However, 1 in 5 men who have never purchased sex can see themselves doing so in the future under the right circumstances. [5]

The majority of men that purchase sex report that they are “just guys being guys”. Somewhere along the lines we have somehow made this behavior acceptable. This can no longer be a taboo topic; conversations need to be had around stopping the demand, especially with younger generations.

Active buyers are less likely to be married, with only one third being married and over half of buyers still have children living with them. [5]

Unfortunately, buyers are not likely to stop because they are afraid they will be caught by their family or law enforcement, the number one reason they stop is fear of contracting and STI or getting hurt.


71% of traffickers have more than one victim. [4]

This is referred to as a “stable” and on average a trafficker is running 3-5 girls at the same time. Meaning that one trafficker behind bars does not just affect one victim, but instead it can impact countless.

Traffickers are motivated by the money associated with this crime, some report making nearly $33,000 per week. [6]

These are dirty profits that come at the cost of someone’s life. They are using our daughters and sons to bank roll their lifestyle.

How Trafficking Happens

59% of the victims involved in a federally prosecuted case in 2020 were recruited on Facebook. [7]

The internet has created a space for traffickers to easily recruit their victims from the safety of their own home. No longer must a predator meet and interact with their potential victim in person, instead they can scroll social media accounts and attempt to contact as many as they would like.

42% of victims report their trafficker earned their trust within 1 month of meeting and 85% report developing a close relationship with their trafficker. [4]

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 and often the victim believes they are selling themselves because it is how they contribute to the relationship.

150,000 new escort ads posted daily. [4]

Mixed into all those ads are children who are bought and sold for sex online. Law Enforcement officers lack the time and training necessary to locate a victim in a haystack so to say. The PURSUIT™ Team within Guardian Group acts as a force multiplier. By investing the hours necessary looking at publicly available information (social media sites, escort ads etc…) and providing that information directly to Law Enforcement, officers are able to act quickly in order to recover victims and arrest predators.

Trafficking and the Justice System

The average time to resolve a sex trafficking case in 2020 was 38 months, in 2019 was 27 months. [7]

These cases are complex and messy and can take years to complete the judicial process. The drastic increase in 2020 was likely due to the court’s restrictions from Covid-19.

The average prison sentence for a federally prosecuted case in 2020 for a child only victim was 16 years, adult only victim 10.4 years. [7]

Some state sentences are closer to 18 months. The laws need to start changing in order for judges to hand out stricter sentences for this type of horrific crime.

Community Response

44% of victims report no one reached out and offered them help while they were being exploited with another 26% reporting rarely being offered help. [4]

Meaning we as a community must do better! We must take the time to learn how to recognize this crime and how to report it when we see what could potentially be trafficking.

2/3 of victims report never seeing a helpline number. [4]

National Human Trafficking Hotline 888.373.7888. Put this in your phone and share it as needed. This one resource may be all the information a victim needs to make the decision to leave her abuser.

The top five points of access for help in order are friends and family, law enforcement, health services, mobile apps and social media and lastly the child welfare system. [8]

Would you be able to recognize when a family or friend was being groomed for this crime or worse already being trafficked? Learn the indicators so you can protect your loved ones, you are their best access point for help.


These statistics are more than just numbers on a page. They represent countless daughters, sisters, sons, and nephews. They represent a rapidly growing epidemic that is wreaking havoc on the lives of so many young people. It is time that we as a nation stop simply admiring this problem and start doing something about it. Imagine that this was your teenager that was being exploited and then decide how you will take action. Here are three tactical ways to join the fight with Guardian Group:

Become a Guardian – Join a community of monthly donors committed to creating the necessary reliable and sustainable support required to make a lasting impact on this crime. The Guardians are vital to the work being done to combat sex trafficking and committed to making a difference every day.

Volunteer for the PURUSIT™ Team – Put your OSINT skills towards a good cause by helping the PURSUIT™ Team generate actionable intelligence for law enforcement across the country. Enroll in the course to get started today.

Get Trained – Victims are everywhere, know what the indicators are and be willing to report what you see. If you own a business or work for a corporation regardless of the sector advocate for training within your industry.


It is time to change these statistics for the better.











1.National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (2021). Child Sex Trafficking. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from

2.U.S. Department of Justice. (2011, April). Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010 [PDF]. Office of Justice Programs.

3. US. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Human Trafficking Fact Sheet [PDF].

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

5.Demand Abolition. (2019, March). Who Buys Sex? Understanding and Disrupting Illicit Market Demand [PDF]. Demand Abolition.

6.Johnson, M., & Dank, PhD, M. (2014). The Hustle Economics of the Underground Commercial Sex Industry. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from

7.Feehs, K., & Currier Wheeler, A. (2021). 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report. Human Trafficking Institute.

8.Polaris (2019). 2019 Data Report the US National Human Trafficking Hotline. Polaris Project.