What Is Human Trafficking?

Where Is It Happening?

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that affects an estimated 21 million victims worldwide. Defined as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel another human being to perform labor or a commercial sex act, human trafficking is among the fastest-growing criminal activities in the world because criminals see it as a highly profitable and relatively low-risk enterprise. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that human trafficking is now a $150 billion industry, with $99 billion of that coming from the forced commercial sex trade. Unfortunately, the bulk of the commercial sex trade revolves around sex acts performed by children.

Many Americans think that these facts and figures reflect the problems of other countries in other parts of the world. But the ILO estimates that sex trafficking in the U.S. is a $10 billion industry involving hundreds of thousands of victims within our own borders—and up to 80% of those victims are American citizens. The reality is that sex trafficking and sex slavery are happening in our own country, in cities and towns both large and small. Sex trafficking is happening figuratively and sometimes literally right under our noses.

How to Stop Human Trafficking:

The human trafficking problem has become so widespread in part because too many Americans do not realize it is a problem and in part, because most Americans are not equipped with the knowledge, tools, or motivation to detect and combat it. Fortunately, those circumstances are changing. For example, over the last decade, the Department of Defense (DOD) has significantly increased employee training on what human trafficking is and how it operates worldwide. Employees of the DOD, including those working both within and outside of the U.S., have been trained to pick up on common trafficking practices.

The DOD reports that this increase in training and awareness has produced tremendous results for the detection and prosecution of human trafficking both at home and abroad. Thanks to the success of such programs, other groups—including, notably, flight attendants and airline personnel—have started to receive increased training over the last decade as well. In December 2016, the White House proclaimed January 2017 to be “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month,” raising public awareness of this important but oft-overlooked issue. In the proclamation, President Obama called upon American businesses to recognize the vital role they must play “with appropriate programs and activities” to help end “all forms of slavery and human trafficking.”

That proclamation was rooted in recognition of the fact that we can do a lot more as a community to combat human trafficking. Solving this problem will require collective action from everyday citizens, law enforcement agencies, government organizations, and the private sector. Though many people in the public and private sectors can and should be trained to recognize and report human trafficking, one of the most important groups in combating the problem is hotel employees. Hotels are among the most common sites for sex trafficking, but hotel owners and operators have traditionally been reluctant to ask difficult questions or intrude in awkward or potentially dangerous situations for fear of impacting the bottom line. Unfortunately, that reluctance literally costs lives.

To combat that reticence, several states have recently passed laws to change the incentives, ensuring for the first time that not speaking up will now impact a hotel’s bottom line. There are longstanding ethical and newly passed legal imperatives for hotel employees to take a more active role in the detection and prevention of sex trafficking. Now is the time to train hotel employees to actively spot and manage situations involving sex traffickers and their victims.

The Takeaways:

  • Sex trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel another human being to perform labor or a commercial sex act.
  • Human trafficking is among the fastest-growing criminal activities in the world because criminals see it as a highly profitable and relatively low-risk enterprise.
  • Increased training and awareness has produced tremendous results for the detection and prosecution of human trafficking both at home and abroad.
  • One of the most important groups in combating the problem is hotel employees because hotels are among the most common sites for sex trafficking.
  • Hotels have a legal obligation to address the issue and hotel employees should be trained and provided with the tools they need to properly combat sex-trafficking and human trafficking within their organization. Learn more about the Guardian Seal® Training.