Elements of Human Trafficking

The Action-Means-Purpose Model can be used to describe the elements of human trafficking. Cases that are considered severe forms of trafficking in persons involve three elements:

1.    Action, which may be the recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining of an individual. Additional actions that constitute sex trafficking, but not labor trafficking, include patronizing, soliciting, and advertising an individual.

2.    Through the Means of force, fraud, or coercion. Examples of force include physical abuse or assault, sexual abuse or assault, or confinement. Examples of fraud include false promises of work/living conditions, withholding promised wages, or contract fraud. Coercion may include threats of harm to self or others, debt bondage, psychological manipulation, or document confiscation.

3.    For a specific Purpose, either of compelled labor or services or commercial sex act(s).

However, it is not necessary to demonstrate force, fraud, or coercion in sex trafficking cases involving children under the age of 18.

Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people in the United States and around the world. Traffickers are estimated to exploit 40.3 million victims, with an estimated 25 million victims in forced labor and 15 million victims in forced marriage. Despite growing awareness about this crime, human trafficking continues to go underreported due to its covert nature, misconceptions about its definition, and a lack of awareness about its indicators. As governments, first responders, and researchers learn more about human trafficking, more information is gathered about the scope of human trafficking in the United States and worldwide.