Human Trafficking Awareness

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young sad woman looking up with text stating human trafficking threatens families, women, children

In support of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is providing resources for mental health professionals, law enforcement personnel, health care professionals, and survivors on how to recognize signs of trafficking and provide services for human trafficking survivors.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where traffickers profit from the control and exploitation of others.

As defined under US federal law, victims of human trafficking victims in the US include three populations:

a) Minors (under age 18) induced into commercial sex—referred to as Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)
b) Adults (age 18 or over) involved in commercial sex via force, fraud, or coercion
c) Children and adults forced to perform labor and/or services in conditions of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery through force, fraud, or coercion, such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will

HumanTraffickingSex trafficking occurs when people are induced by force, fraud, or coercion into the commercial sex trade against their will. CSEC includes any child involved in commercial sex. Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry. CSEC and sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade—often at much larger rates than most people realize—and has been found in a variety of venues, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution.

Labor trafficking occurs when people are induced by force, fraud, or coercion to perform labor or services. Labor traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep control over their victims. Some industries where child labor trafficking exists include agriculture, domestic servitude, peddling and sales crews, and service industries such as restaurants.


Vulnerability to human trafficking is far-reaching, spanning multiple areas such as age, socio-economic status, nationality, education-level, or gender. Traffickers often prey on people hoping for a better life, lacking employment opportunities, having an unstable home life, or with a history of sexual abuse—conditions present in all spheres of society. Human trafficking victims are found in cities, suburbs, and rural areas in all 50 states and in Washington, DC. The most vulnerable populations include undocumented immigrants; runaway and homeless youth; victims of trauma and abuse; refugees and individuals fleeing conflict; and oppressed, marginalized, and impoverished groups and individuals.


The following resources provide information on human trafficking and on how to best serve those affected and their communities.

Featured NCTSN Resources

Featured NCTSN Resources

Polyvictimization and Sexual Exploitation of Young Girls and Women Webinar 

Polyvictimization and Sexual Exploitation of Young Boys and Men Webinar 

For Clinicians and Mental Health Professionals

Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST)
The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) is a coalition of US-based human rights organizations working to end modern-day slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world. Members advocate for lasting solutions to labor and sex trafficking, hold perpetrators accountable, ensure justice for victims, and empower survivors with tools for recovery. 

The Ark of Hope for Children
The Ark of Hope is a non-profit, faith-based organization that provides advocacy and services for survivors of child sex trafficking and their families, including live web-based chats, rehabilitation-focused facilities for trafficking survivors, and training for providers.

CAASE—Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
CAASE addresses the culture, institutions, and individuals that perpetrate, profit from, or support sexual exploitation. Their work includes prevention, policy reform, community engagement, and legal services. They have developed toolkits and resources for nonprofits, faith-based groups, schools, businesses, feminist groups, and other communities and individuals.

Children of the Night
The Children of the Night provides a home for child prostitutes throughout the United States and is ready and able—through the Children of the Night hotline—to rescue these children 24 hours a day. Children of the Night provides free taxi/airline transportation nationwide for children who wish to escape prostitution and live in the home, which features an on-site school and college placement program. The hotline staff work closely with law enforcement to rescue children from dominating pimps. After youngsters complete the rigorous, comprehensive program of academic and life-skills education, caseworkers provide ongoing case management.

Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking
The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) was established in 1998 following the El Monte sweatshop case in which 72 Thai garment workers were kept for eight years in slavery and debt bondage. The mission of CAST, a not-for-profit organization, is to assist persons trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-related practices and to work toward ending all instances of such violations of human rights.

Courtney’s House
Courtney’s House was founded in 2008 by Tina Frundt, a survivor of domestic sex trafficking. Courtney’s House helps police, FBI, local communities, schools, and corporations become aware of sex trafficking issues, while developing local programs to help the victims and their families. At Courtney’s House, survivors of sex trafficking can receive survivor-focused, trauma-informed, holistic services including a needs assessment, individual and group therapy, parental support, and “help to recover their own voices” and “pass on their own keys to success.” 

Covenant House
Covenant House was founded in 1972 with the mission to help homeless kids escape the streets. Today we are the largest privately funded charity in the Americas providing loving care and vital services to homeless, abandoned, abused, trafficked, and exploited youth.

Department of Health and Human Services Blue Campaign
In 2010, DHS launched the Blue Campaign, unifying the DHS components to more effectively combat human trafficking through enhanced public awareness, training, victim assistance, and law enforcement investigations. By expanding collaboration within the department, as well as among domestic and international governments, law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, DHS is helping to stop trafficking within the United States and throughout the world.

ECPAT was created in 1991 by a group of NGO workers and other concerned individuals in Asia to End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism. They work to protect children who are sexually exploited by Americans abroad, children trafficked to the US from other countries, and American children trafficked and exploited within the US. ECPAT has expanded its scope beyond tourism to encompass child pornography and the prostitution of children within all countries. 

Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) is the only organization in New York State specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. GEMS was founded in 1998 by Rachel Lloyd, a young woman who had been sexually exploited as a teenager. GEMS has helped hundreds of girls and young women, ages 12–24, to exit the commercial sex industry and develop their potential. GEMS provides young women with empathetic, consistent support and viable opportunities for positive change.

MISSSEY: Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth

MISSSEY is a community-based organization in Alameda County, CA, founded in 2007 to provide comprehensive services to commercially sexually exploited youth in a safe environment and to work for systemic and community change to prevent such exploitation through public awareness, education, and policy development.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children opened in 1984 to serve as the nation’s clearinghouse on issues related to missing and sexually exploited children. NCMEC provides services, resources, and technical assistance to child victims of abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at Polaris Project
A resource of Polaris Project (see below), the hotline is a national, toll-free, bi-lingual hotline, available to answer calls and texts from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, where callers can report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, or request training, technical assistance, general information or specific anti-trafficking resources. Call 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733). 

Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
The Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was created by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, which secured the guarantees of freedom from modern slavery and involuntary servitude. The Office leads the United States’ global engagement in the fight against human trafficking, partnering with foreign governments and civil society to develop and implement effective strategies for confronting modern slavery. The Office has responsibility for bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, targeted foreign assistance, and public engagement on trafficking in persons.

Polaris Project
Polaris Project is a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the US and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (see above), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery.

Rights 4 Girls
Rights4Girls is a human rights organization focused on gender-based violence and its impact on vulnerable young women and girls in the US. Rights4Girls achieves policy change through education, engagement, and building a human rights movement for girls with other US human rights, women’s rights, child welfare, and criminal justice organizations. Rights4Girls works to ensure that all victims of trafficking can receive the same support systems and opportunities to heal.

Support to End Exploitation Now (SEEN)
The Support to End Exploitation Now (SEEN) is a ground-breaking partnership among more than 35 public and private agencies who believe that only genuine collaboration can yield positive outcomes for exploited youth. 

Shared Hope International
Shared Hope International was founded in 1998 when US Congresswoman Linda Smith traveled to the brothel district in Mumbai, India where she witnessed the brutal exploitation and sexual slavery of women and children. Shared Hope International strives to prevent the conditions that foster sex trafficking, restore victims of sex slavery, and bring justice to vulnerable women and children. Shared Hope envisions a world passionately opposed to sex trafficking and a committed community restoring survivors to lives of purpose, value, and choice one life at a time.

For Law Enforcement and Judicial Personnel 

The Child Trafficking Resource Project: Civil Litigation
The Child Trafficking Resource Project: Immigration
The Child Trafficking Resource Project: Legal Service Providers

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Child—Sex Trafficking Team

The National Center for Youth Law

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) was established in 1970 under the name Youth Law Center. NCYL works to ensure that low-income children have the resources, support, and opportunities they need for a healthy and productive future. Much of NCYL’s work is focused on poor children who are additionally challenged by abuse and neglect, disability, or other disadvantage.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center at Polaris Project

The US Department of Justice
The Department of Justice is deeply committed to combating labor trafficking, assisting its victims, and prosecuting its perpetrators. DOJ states that their  human trafficking enforcement programs—specifically the labor trafficking program—have never been stronger.

The Child Trafficking Resource Project: Criminal Law
The Child Trafficking Resource Project (CTRP) is part of the Child Trafficking Outreach Initiative at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), created to increase identification of child trafficking survivors in the Los Angeles Area. Child trafficking is an under-identified crime in Los Angeles and throughout the United States.

US Laws on Trafficking in Persons

For Primary Health Care and Other Child Serving Professionals

The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, founded in 1987, is a nonprofit national organization focused on meeting the needs of professionals engaged in all aspects of services for maltreated children and their families. Especially important to APSAC is the dissemination of state-of-the-art practice in all professional disciplines related to child abuse and neglect.

Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking Handbook (PDF)
The handbook provides policies, protocols, and forms for incorporating child trafficking identification and response mechanisms into state and private child welfare systems, using Illinois as a case study.

Center for the Human Rights of Children
Loyola’s Center for the Human Rights of Children represents, coordinates, and stimulates efforts to understand, protect, and apply the human rights of children.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—Social Services Indicator Card
Indicators on the card help identify possible child victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center at Polaris Project

Polaris Project Medical Assessment Tool 
The flow chart gives providers lists of medical signs to look for when assessing potential human trafficking victims.

Polaris Project—Comprehensive Human Trafficking Assessment 
This assessment tool contains questions helpful in assessing a client for potential signs that she/he has been a victim of human trafficking.

Shared Hope International National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
Shared Hope synthesizes 10 field assessments conducted in targeted locations in the United States, providing a comprehensive understanding of child sex trafficking across America. The report addresses the proper identification of children, treatment and care, and criminalization of buyers.

US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF) Guidance to States and Services on Addressing Human Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States
The 16-page report presents guidance to states and service programs, based on current research and emerging practices, in order to elevate the issue of human trafficking within child welfare systems and runaway and homeless youth programs.


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