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The National Prevention Toolkit

on Officer-Involved Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking

Sex Trafficking

What is sex trafficking? *

Transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person. – FL Statute 787.06

When a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. -National Institute of Justice.

The Victims *

  • Victims of sex trafficking can be any gender, socioeconomic class, and ethnicity.
  • Individuals who have experienced previous violence (domestic violence or sexual assault/abuse) are more at-risk for being trafficked.
  • Victims can be both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.
  • More than 50% of minors trafficked for sex are runaways.

The Perpetrators *

  • Traffickers can be a single person or a network of people.
  • Traffickers often share the same national or cultural background as the victim.
  • Traffickers can be any gender and age.
  • Victims may be forced to recruit, manage, and discipline other victims which could make them appear to be traffickers.
  • A recent analysis revealed that among those who trafficked minors for sex:
    • The trafficker’s average age was 28.5
    • 24.4% of the traffickers were women
    • 45.1% of traffickers knew their victims

Common Sex Trafficking Sites *

  • Hotels/Motels
    • A six-year analysis revealed that when minors were trafficked for sex, 56.6% of sex trafficking activities occurred in hotel/motel rooms.
  • Fake massage businesses
    • Victims who work at illicit massage businesses are often forced to provide sex acts for the customers.
  • Residential brothels
    • These brothels can be in any structure (houses, apartments, condos, and trailers) in urban, suburban, or rural cities.
  • Truck stops
    • Rest stops are convenient sites for traffickers to sell victims and provide an easy way to move victims.

Sex Trafficking: How Do Traffickers Recruit Victims?

The chart below describes tactics used by sex traffickers to recruit and entrap victims and provides specific examples from news articles.

Recruitment Tactic


“Boyfriend” Tactic

  • The trafficker
    • Flatters the victim with attention and compliments.
    • Psychologically manipulates the victim (says he “loves” her).
    • Gives expensive gifts.
    • Becomes intermittently violent (similar to domestic violence battering tactics).
      • This pattern creates an emotional attachment for the victim despite the abuse (trauma bond).
  • Trafficker lured women from Mexico.
  • He promised the women that he loved them and would marry them.
  • The victims were forced to prostitute.
  • Intermittently, the trafficker became very violent.

Source: Sifuentes, E. (2016, August 29). REGION: Two men plead guilty in sex trafficking case. Retrieved November 29, 2017. Read More

“Helping” Tactic

  • The trafficker
    • Helps runaway victim.
    • Gives shelter to homeless victim.
    • Provides drugs.
    • Helps victim avoid police/other authorities.
  • The trafficker is the “only one the victim can trust.”
  • Two female traffickers met a 14-year-old female runaway.
  • The women befriended victim.
  • As long as she “earned her stay,” she was allowed to live with the traffickers.
  • The victim was forced into prostitution.

Source: Hamacher, L. R. (2015, June 02). 2 Women charged in teen human trafficking case. Retrieved October 25, 2017. Read More

Gang Involvement

  • Gang member pressures the victim into prostitution.
    • Victim may be a member of the gang.
    • The victim’s boyfriend may be in the gang.
    • Victim may be unaffiliated and preyed upon by the gang.
  • A 14-year-old female runaway was picked up by a female member of “Nine Trey Billy Bad Ass” gang (affiliated with the Bloods).
  • This gang member acted as “second mom.”
  • The victim was taken to a motel, given drugs, and raped by male gang members.
  • The traffickers said she had to pay them back for the drugs and she was forced to prostitute.

Source: Dostis, M. (2014, December 18). Girl details ‘despicable’ sex crimes at gang sentencing. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 11, 2017. Read More


  • The trafficker
    • Isolates the victim from family, friends, and the outside world.
    • Controls or takes away the victim’s phone.
    • Controls or deletes the victim’s social media.
    • Moves the victim to a new city or state.
  • Traffickers lured Hungarian men to the U.S. for work and forced them to prostitute.
  • The victims were isolated from each other and confined in an apartment.
  • The traffickers took away the victims’ travel and identification documents.
  • The traffickers monitored their communication with family and the outside world.

Source: Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney. (2014, October 21). Sex Traffickers Charged with RICO For Luring Hungarian Men to Miami. Retrieved November 09, 2017. Read More


  • The trafficker
    • Abducts the victim.
    • Drugs or uses physical force.
    • Holds the victim hostage.
    • Forces the victim to use more drugs to keep compliant.
  • A 19-year-old woman was kidnapped from her home at gunpoint.
  • She was held hostage in a hotel room.
  • The traffickers advertised her on Backpage and planned to prostitute her.

Source: Whigham, J., II. (2017, February 14). Three face human-trafficking charges; Boynton woman, 19, targeted. Palm Beach Post. Retrieved October 27, 2017. Read More

“Bait and Switch”

  • The trafficker
    • Loans the victim money or other assistance (housing, food, shelter, travel into country).
    • Insists the victim doesn’t need to pay the money back.
    • Later forces the victim into prostitution to pay off the debt.
    • Threatens harm for non-compliance.
  • Traffickers recruited adult and minor females from Mexico.
  • The victims were promised restaurant jobs in the U.S.
  • The traffickers forced the victims to prostitute until they paid back double the smuggling fee.
  • The traffickers beat the victims and threatened their family.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office. (2017, April 21). Eight Members Of Mexican Sex Trafficking Enterprise Plead Guilty To Racketeering, Sex Trafficking, And Related Crimes. Retrieved November 17, 2017. Read More

Prey on Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

  • The trafficker may pick up the victim at a bus stop or on the street.
  • The victim is unaware they are being exploited.
  • The victim is unable to distinguish between pimp/john and boyfriend.
    • An individual with an intellectual disability is particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
  • An adult female with a mental disability was trafficked for 7 years.
  • She was forced to engage in sexual activity in exchange for candy and trips to the dollar store.
  • The trafficker had full control of the victim’s money.

Source: United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Northeastern Division. (2014, March 25). FRANKENFIELD v. STRONG | No. 2:12-00054. | 20140428820. Retrieved November 09, 2017. Read More

Grooming Children

  • The trafficker
    • Frequently talks, jokes, and asks questions about sex.
    • Has sex with the victim.
    • Exposes the victim to pornography.
    • Takes explicit pictures of the victim.
    • Recruits other victims to “normalize” the experience.
  • The trafficker recruited a 15-year-old female through an internet chat site.
  • The victim was transported to a hotel.
  • The trafficker forced the victim to have sex with him and then forced her to prostitute.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office. (2012, April 16). Convicted Sex Offender Sentenced to 20 Years for Additional Crimes Against a Child. Retrieved November 09, 2017. Read More

Sex Trafficking: How Do Traffickers Control Victims?

The chart below describes tactics used by sex traffickers to control victims and provides specific examples from news articles.

Controlling Tactic



  • The trafficker
    • Convinces the victim that they are worthless.
    • Convinces the victim they can’t do anything else now.
    • Posts explicit photos of the victim online.
    • Threatens to show the victim’s family the explicit photos.
  • Trafficker prostituted young females in six states.
  • Threatened to post pornographic videos/images of them online.
  • The trafficker hacked one victim’s Facebook and posted explicit photos.

Source: Staff Report. (2017, November 10). Man convicted of 17 federal felonies for luring women and teens into prostitution. Redmond Reporter. Retrieved on November 13, 2017. Read More


  • Loyalty to the trafficker becomes the highest priority.
  • The victim doesn’t want to be a “snitch.”
  • The trafficker convinces the victim that they were rescued from worse.
  • The victim is convinced that they owe the trafficker everything.
  • The trafficker provides drugs to the victim and they become addicted.
  • 13-year-old victim stated that the trafficker “never abused her and she feels bad for getting him arrested.”
  • The trafficker forced women already addicted to drugs to prostitute in exchange for more drugs and food.

Source: Reid, J. A. (n.d). Entrapment and Enmeshment Schemes Used by Sex Traffickers. Sexual Abuse-A Journal Of Research And Treatment, 28(6), 491-511.

Source: Russell, E. (2017, November 27). Wasilla man sentenced for two counts of sex trafficking. Alaska Public Media. Retrieved November 28, 2017. Read More

Make Complicit in Crime

  • The trafficker forces the victim to participate in crime (shoplifting, drug deals, etc.).
  • The victim is forced to recruit other victims.
  • The trafficker forces the victim to control and abuse the other victims.
  • The trafficker engaged with a middle-school girl over a social media app.
  • Sent graphic sexual text messages to the victim and committed sexual battery against the victim.
  • Wanted the victim to become “plug,” recruiting other girls into prostitution.

Source: Whigham, J., II. (2017, May 17). New: Florida man faces human-trafficking charge with middle-school kid. Palm Beach Post. Retrieved November 1, 2017. Read More


  • The trafficker
    • May impregnate the victim
    • Takes the victim’s child away.
    • Makes threats to harm/run away with the victim’s child
    • Forces the victim to have an abortion.
    • Does not allow the victim medical treatment while pregnant.
  • Traffickers kept victims from seeing their child until they earned their “quota” for the day.

Source: Reid, J. A. (n.d). Entrapment and Enmeshment Schemes Used by Sex Traffickers. Sexual Abuse-A Journal Of Research And Treatment, 28(6), 491-511.


  • The trafficker
    • Takes away the victim’s phone.
    • Cuts off the victim’s social media access.
    • Holds the victim in a home with a camera, alarms, motion sensors, and locks.
  • The trafficker lured women under false pretenses into prostitution.
  • Took away the victims’ cell phones, laptops, and identification documents.
  • The victims were not allowed to communicate with each other or anyone from the outside world without the trafficker’s permission.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office. (2013, November 13). Ringleader Of El Paso And Baltimore-based Federal Human Trafficking Investigation Sentenced To 17 1/2 Years In Federal Prison. Retrieved November 29, 2017. Read More

Financial Control

  • The trafficker
    • Keeps all or most of victim’s money.
    • Controls all of the victim’s possessions.
  • The trafficker forced the victim to prostitute throughout Florida.
  • The trafficker took all money earned from the victim prostituting.

Source: Ray, W. (2016, December 28). Attorney General Bondi and Marion County Sheriff Gainey Announce Human Trafficking Arrest. Retrieved October 25, 2017. Read More

Intimidation and Violence

  • The trafficker routinely threatens physical harm and emotionally abuses the victim.
  • The trafficker threatens the victim’s family members.
  • Uses violence including but not limited to:
    • Physical assault.
    • Rape.
    • Showing weapons.
    • Tattooing and branding.
    • Threatening with death.
    • Threatening that the trafficker will abandon the victim or have them arrested.
  • The trafficker forced three victims to prostitute in motels and frequently beat them.
  • One victim had two broken ribs, an open head wound, and several bruises.
  • Another victim was beaten with a power cord, had a dumbbell dropped on her, and cleaning liquid poured into her eyes.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice. (2013, January 09). Chicago Man Pleads Guilty to Transporting Woman Across State Lines for Prostitution. Retrieved November 29, 2017. Read More

Provide Hope, Connection, Faux Family

  • The trafficker
    • Convinces the victim they are the “special one.”
    • Convinces the victim that no one else will understand what they’ve been through.
    • Convinces the victim that they are part of a “team” or “family.”
  • The victim has an emotional attachment despite abuse (trauma bond).
  • A 16-year-old victim was kicked out of an upper-middle class family.
  • Moved in with a “motherly figure” who then forced victim into prostitution.
  • Despite being trafficked by her, the victim described the trafficker as “a good person. She just had twisted ways.”

Source: McNamara, M. (2016, March 1). Sex Trafficking in Northwest Florida. Retrieved on November 15, 2017. Read More

Sex Trafficking Charts Source: Reid, J. A. (n.d). Entrapment and Enmeshment Schemes Used by Sex Traffickers. Sexual Abuse-A Journal Of Research And Treatment, 28(6), 491-511.

Sponsored by the

The Human Trafficking Project was supported by Award No. VF011 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, Sponsored by the Institute for Family Violence Studies and the State of Florida.


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