What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the act of compelling a person to engage in sexual acts or forced labor. The trafficker profits from this exploitation while continuing to manipulate the victims. This exploitation has reached near epidemic levels in the United States, and is why Just Ask works to stop this insidious crime from ever happening by creating a safety net within communities and building capacity of organizations to identify, prevent, and respond to suspected incidents.

Where Does Human Trafficking Occur?

Like any crime, human trafficking can occur in any community where there are teens to manipulate and a marketplace of users with money to service. In 2017, there were over 10,615 cases of human trafficking reported in the United States according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

This is only a small percentage of the actual occurrences of trafficking as many cases go unreported. There are so many unreported cases because most victims are too afraid and/or ashamed to ask for help and very few people recognize the trafficking that is happening all around them. This map (courtesy of Polaris Project) shows where these phone calls originated from. Visit National Human Trafficking Hotline website to get statistics specific to human trafficking.

a heat map with most human trafficing spots

Who’s Impacted?

Victims of human trafficking, and those that are targeted by traffickers, can be from any race, age, ethnicity, social or economic group, gender, sexual orientation or level of academic achievement.


  • Lack a sense of belonging to others
  • Don’t feel well respected or valued by family or friends
  • Base their self-worth on popularity or relationships
  • Are willing to keep secrets, including their relationship
  • Don’t have a good relationship with their parents
  • Are looking for a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Are often bored with not much to do
  • Spend a lot time away from family and friends
  • Are willing to take directions and believe the lies and false promises of the trafficker

Those with pre-existing physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities may be at greater risk of falling victim to human trafficking due to their vulnerable state.

Who Are The Traffickers?

Like victims, traffickers come from all parts of society – every race, gender, and socio-economic group.

Boyfriend/Girlfriend: A common type is an attractive polished man (or woman) in their early 20s, who pretends to be a girlfriend or boyfriend to the teen.

Gangs: Criminal gangs also play a significant role in trafficking, sometimes using associates with a less threatening appearance to make the initial approach.

Employers: Fake employers also lure victims in, to both sex and labor trafficking with promises of modeling or other glamorous careers.

Family: Finally, some victims are trafficked by their own family members (or foster parents).


How Bad is the Problem?

  • 2nd Largest Criminal Enterprise Worldwide
  • Estimated to overtake the Drug Trade
  • National Center for Missing Exploited Children reports an 846% increase in reports of child sex trafficking
  • National Human Trafficking Hotline has tracked over 36,000 calls since its inception
  • $150 billion industry
  • US Department of Justice reports that 50% of victims are under the age of 18

Know the Patterns of Traffickers

Victims can be from any ethnicity, social or economic group,gender, or level of academic achievement.



a woman texting on a phone


Traffickers are searching for young people to target.

Traffickers find teens via:

  • Social media
  • Shopping malls
  • Bus stops
  • School
  • Through friends
a man giving gifts to a girl


Traffickers relate to young people and often times seem “too good to be true.”

Trafficker manipulation techniques:

  • Pretend to be boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Buy presents
  • Treat their intended victims very well
  • Listen and act interested in their lives
  • Lies and manipulation
a woman texting on a phone


Traffickers trick or control young people into staying in the lifestyle.

These methods could be:

  • False love or lies
  • Drugs
  • Threats of violence
  • Physical violence

It’s a serious crime, with serious numbers.

every 30 seconds a child or teen is sold into slavery
only 1% of the victims are ever rescued
approximately 14.5 million victims worldwide

Work with us to educate teens and adults about the dangers of human trafficking

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We’ve made it easy to teach your students about the strategies of traffickers so that they can know if they’re being manipulated. CONTACT US FOR DETAILS

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Schedule to have someone from Just Ask come to your event or classroom to teach them about the dangers of trafficking. CONTACT TO SCHEDULE

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We’ve coordinated our efforts with several national partners to help spread knowledge about human trafficking.

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There are a number of outstanding organizations we work with and recommend n the fight against human trafficking.

Stories of Survival

“I was trafficked for three years starting when I was 14 years old. He trafficked me for 3 years, the whole time I had both parents in my life, I was seeing a counselor, and even ended up on probation for running away. But no one ever helped me, no one ever asked me what was going on. If someone had cared enough to JUST ASK what was going on, maybe I would have never been a victim.”