Human trafficking is the use of “force, fraud, or coercion to obtain a labor or commercial sex act”. Human trafficking is present worldwide, and affects people from every possible background, however some communities are more at risk than others, disproportionately affecting low income individuals. Oftentimes, people in poverty are targeted by traffickers for their financial vulnerability and want for economic opportunities. Traffickers may put out misleading offers for making money, targeting the people they know will need it the most.
In addition to adults, children are victimized as well. According to the FBI, sex trafficking alone affects more than 100,000 children and teens in the United States anually. Children in the foster care system face a high risk of being trafficked, with 60% of child trafficking victims having a history of being in the child welfare system. These children face a multitude of risk factors including homelessness, lack of support at home, and behavioral or mental health issues.
Race and racism greatly put people at risk for human trafficking. People of color are targeted at a much higher rate than others, and make up a startlingly large portion of all sex trafficking victims. 40% of all sex trafficking victims nationally were found to be black women. This is partly due to the fact that in the United States black women are more at risk for poverty and homelessness, but also due to the racial bias of traffickers. During an interview with the Urban Institute it was stated that “traffickers admittedly believe trafficking Black women would land them less jail time than trafficking white women if caught”.
Indigenous people face risk for trafficking at an extremely high rate as well. Indigenous women and girls make up around 1.1% of the United States population, yet almost 25% of human trafficking victims are indigenous women and girls, with victims and survivors often being left without the appropriate resources to deal with the trauma as it relates to their communities. Without access to services and resources to ensure proper healing, victims are at risk of being re-victimized.
The historical socio-economic discrimination faced by these populations has undoubtedly contributed to the high victim rates in marginalized communities. The exploitation of these groups goes back throughout all of the nation's history, and trafficking is the continuation of these exploitation tactics.