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Sex Trafficking

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking violates human rights and harms health. Get resources to help your community.

Sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking and is a form of modern day slavery.  It is a serious public health problem that negatively affects the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Sex trafficking is defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act”. It involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to make an adult engage in commercial sex acts, or if a minor, to cause them to commit commercial sex acts.  This type of violence exploits women, men, and children across the United States and around the world.  Sex trafficking is preventable. Understanding the shared risk and protective factors for violence can help us prevent sex trafficking from happening in the first place.

Risk & Impact

Trafficking victimization and perpetration share risks and consequences associated with child abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and gang violence.

Victims can come from all backgrounds and become trapped in different locations and situations.

  • The majority of victims are women and girls, though men and boys are also impacted;
  • Victims include all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, citizens, non-citizens, and income levels;
  • Victims are trapped and controlled through assault, threats, false promises, perceived sense of protection, isolation, shaming, and debt; and
  • Victims do not have to be physically transported between locations to be victimized.

Perpetrators of sex trafficking often target people who are poor, vulnerable, living in an unsafe situation, or searching for a better life. For example, youth with a history of abuse and neglect or who are homeless are more likely to be exploited.  Learn how to recognize the signs of human trafficking. 

Consequences of sexual violence, including sex trafficking, can be immediate and long term, including physical and relationship problems, psychological concerns, and chronic health outcomes.  Read more about common issues seen in victims of trafficking [44.4KB, 2Pages, Print Only].

What States and Communities Need to Know

Strategies based on the best available evidence exist to prevent different types of violence and they may also reduce sex trafficking.  States and communities can implement comprehensive efforts that:

  • Encourage healthy behaviors in relationships,
  • Foster safe homes and neighborhoods,
  • Reduce demand for commercial sex, and
  • End business profits from related transactions.

CDC’s suite of technical packages can help states and communities take advantage of the best available evidence to prevent violence. Each package is intended as a resource to guide and inform prevention decision-making in communities and states.  Learn more about how you can get started implementing the technical packages in your violence prevention work.

CDC Resources

Federal Resources

Additional Resources

Victim & Survivor Services