Human Trafficking

Click HERE for the 2010 report on the prevalence of human trafficking in Ohio

Overview of Human Trafficking

After drug dealing, human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry worldwide reaching $32 billion annually!

Who is trafficked?

  • Men, women, and children
  • Educated or illiterate
  • U.S. citizen or foreign-born
  • Cuts across ethnicity, gender, class, and most other demographicsBasically…ANYONE!

From the 1600’s to the 1900’s, there were approximately 9 million slaves. To date, it is estimated that there have been over 27 million human trafficking victims worldwide.

There are approximately 800,000 annual trafficking victims worldwide.

The average age of victims is 11-14.

Approximately 80% of victims are female, with 70% of those females trafficked into the commercial sex industry.

The U.S. is a destination county for over 48 major source countries.

Why? It all boils down to profit!  A girl who is forced into prostitution in Asia or Africa brings in about $10,000 a year.  If that same victim is trafficked into an industrialized county, that profit increases to $67,200.

The above statistics were presented at a conference entitled “Investigating and Responding to Human Trafficking Cases,” hosted on September 19, 2007 by the Butler County Rape Crisis Center.  The key presenter was Detective Ken Lawson of the Columbus Police Department.

What is Human Trafficking?

Trafficking in persons, also known as human trafficking, is the modern practice of slavery.  It is the second largest criminal industry in the world today, after arms and drug dealing, and is the fastest growing.  Traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits every year while victimizing millions of people around the globe.

Trafficked persons are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Under international law, all children who are commercially sexually exploited are considered trafficking victims, even if no force or coercion is used. Sex trafficking is one of the most lucrative sectors of the trade in people, and involves sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography, bride trafficking, and commercial sexual abuse of children. Labor trafficking is widespread not only in situations of domestic servitude and small-scale labor operations, but also in sweatshops and farms that are subcontracted to major multinational corporations.

The number of US citizens trafficked within the country are even higher, with an estimated more than 200,000 American children at high risk for trafficking into the sex industry each year.

Who are the traffickers?

  • Organized crime
  • Family, friends, village chiefs
  • Owners of small businesses

How are people recruited?

  • Abduction
  • Newspaper ads
  • Fake employment agencies
  • Word of mouth
  • Acquaintances or family

Types of compelled services:

  • Adult oriented businesses
  • Prostitution
  • Agricultural
  • Childcare/domestic work
  • Restaurant services

For more details:


The following definitions are taken from the 2000 TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act):

Severe forms of trafficking in persons:

  1. Sex trafficking in which 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; or
  2. The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose  of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

Commercial sex act: Any sex act on account of which anything of value is given or to be received by any person.

Force: Rapes, beatings, constraint, confinement

Fraud: False and deceptive offers for employment, marriage, or a ‘better life’

Coercion: Threats of serious harm to, or physical restraint of, any person; any plan or scheme intended to cause victims to believe that failure to perform an act would result in abuse or perceived abuse against them or their family/relatives.

NOTE: If the victim is under the age of 18, the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion is NOT required.

Three elements necessary to meet trafficking definition:

  1. Recruiting, harboring, moving, or obtaining a person…by
  2. Force, fraud, or coercion – psychological or physical…for the purpose of
  3. Involuntary servitude, debt bondage, slavery, or sexual exploitation.

For the complete text of the 2000 TVPA and the 2005 TVPRA (a reauthorization law), see:

Some Stories From The Frontlines…

Sex Trafficking

Noi came from a community in rural Thailand. At 15, seeking to escape rape and sexual abuse in her foster family, she found a foreign labor agent in Bangkok who advertised well-paid waitress jobs in Japan. She flew to Japan and later learned that she had entered Japan on a tourist visa under a false identity. On her arrival in Japan, she was taken to a karaoke bar where the owner raped her, subjected her to a blood test and then bought her. “I felt like a piece of flesh being inspected,” she recounted. The brothel madam told Noi that she had to pay off a large debt for her travel expenses. She was warned that girls who tried to escape were brought back by the Japanese mafia, severely beaten, and their debts doubled. The only way to pay off the debt was to see as many clients as quickly as possible. Some clients beat the girls with sticks, belts and chains until they bled. If the victims returned crying, they were beaten by the madam and told that they must have provoked the client. The prostitutes routinely used drugs before sex “so that we didn’t feel so much pain.” Most clients refused to use condoms. The victims were given pills to avoid pregnancy and pregnancies were terminated with home abortions. Victims who managed to pay off their debt and work independently were often arrested by the police before being deported. Noi finally managed to escape with the help of a Japanese NGO.

Katya, with a two year old and a failing marriage in the Czech Republic, followed the advice of a “friend” that she could make good money as a waitress in the Netherlands. A Czech trafficker drove her along with four other young women to Amsterdam where, joined by a Dutch trafficker, Katya was taken to a brothel. After saying “I will not do this,” she was told, “Yes you will if you want your daughter back in the Czech Republic to live.” After years of threats and forced prostitution Katya was rescued by a friendly cab driver. Katya is now working at a hospital and studying for a degree in social work.

United States v. Martinez-Uresti (Texas)

Through Operation Dead End, the San Antonio U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office investigated and the local U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted a situation in which the defendant Martinez-Uresti executed employment contracts with minor females and their parents, falsely representing that the minor females would work for one year in a restaurant to repay their $1,500 smuggling fee. Once the girls reached the United States, they were held against their will and forced to engage in prostitution to repay the smuggling fee. On October 10, 2003, defendant Maricela Martinez-Uresti pled guilty to sex trafficking of children and human smuggling violations, and was sentenced to 108 months in prison. The co-defendant, Violeta Juanita de Hoyos-Hernandez, pled guilty to human smuggling violations and was sentenced to seven months in prison.

Nasreen was a Tajik girl who worked in Moscow. Her boss asked her to become his mistress, promising money, housing, a car, and a better life. Nasreen agreed to this arrangement. One day, a houseguest offered Nasreen the opportunity to work in Turkey. Nasreen’s boss pressured her to accept the offer. Nasreen was tricked, and trafficked to Israel for forced prostitution. With the help of a sympathetic journalist, Nasreen was able to escape and return home.

Bopha lived in a rural Cambodian village and married at 17. Her husband immediately took her to a hotel in another village and left her. Bopha discovered the hotel was a brothel and tried to escape, but she was forcibly detained and told she must pay off the price the hotel owner had paid for her. Bopha’s debt kept increasing due to charges for her food, clothing, and other necessities. Bopha could not leave. Ravaged by HIV/AIDS, she was thrown out on the street and finally found her way to an NGO shelter in Phnom Penh. She has been there for two years receiving treatment; it is not known how much longer Bopha will live.

Labor Trafficking

Tina, a teenager from a rural Indonesian village, incurred hundreds of dollars in debt for four months of domestic service training and board at an Indonesian migrant labor center. From there Tina, like many other Indonesian girls, was transported to Malaysia, believing she would work as a maid for a Malaysian couple. Forced to work up to 15 hours a day in a family business where she slept on the floor, Tina was told her salary would be withheld until she finished her two-year contract. After many instances of physical abuse, she sought refuge at a victim’s shelter of a Malaysian NGO. Tina has filed a complaint with the police against her employer and has been given an extension of her immigration visa in order to pursue her case in Malaysia.

United States v. Bradley and O’Dell (New Hampshire)

In a case prosecuted by the Civil Rights Division and the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, two U.S. citizens were convicted on eighteen counts of forced labor and wire fraud for their treatment of Jamaican citizens brought to New Hampshire to work in their tree cutting business. The shed in the photograph at right is where the victims slept at night. Bradley and O’Dell were convicted of conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, trafficking for the purpose of forced labor, and illegally confiscating passports for forcing two of these men to work. The convictions were the culmination of a seventeen-month investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Diplomatic Security Service and the Litchfield Police Department and represent the second convictions at trial of violations of the TVPA’s forced labor statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1589.

International Perspective on Human Trafficking

The U.S. State Department publishes an annual report of human trafficking, identifying best practices of various countries, stories from trafficking victims, and efforts of countries do address the issue of trafficking within their borders.

National Perspective on Human Trafficking

The U.S. Department of Justice has set up forty-two task forces to bring multiple groups and agencies together to combat human trafficking with federal and state laws. Most recently, indictments have been brought in eighteen states against individuals on federal and state charges. FBI offices with highest incidences of children in prostitution are in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Tampa, Washington DC, New York, San Diego, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and St. Louis.

While fourteen states currently have no anti-trafficking statutes, a recent director of the Human Trafficking Program at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services gave a grade of C- or higher to only six states. The balance of states have serious deficiencies that need to be addressed.

The full report, published by the Renewal Forum, can be fond at this link:

Human Trafficking in Ohio

The first study on human trafficking unique to Ohio was published by the Polaris Project in February 2006 entitled “Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery in Ohio.”  This study attempted to define trafficking, identify the characteristics of the industry, identify and assist victims, and raise the awareness level among law enforcement and social service agencies. The report is available at:  Polaris Project: Ohio_Report_Trafficking.pdf

The Rand Corporation conducted a more recent study on human trafficking, specifically addressing its impact in Ohio.  Their findings are published in a report entitled “Human Trafficking in Ohio: Markets, Responses, and Considerations” which is available on the web at

Their research came from interviews with law enforcement and social service providers, as well as other primary source documents such as newspaper articles specifically related to human trafficking.

Some noteworthy facts from the study include:

  • Research focused on two urban regions, Toledo and Columbus.  Toledo research focused primarily on several underage prostitution cases.  Columbus research addressed several brothels in the NE part of the city.
  • Juvenile victims in the case studies were exclusively female, ranging in age from 10-17.
  • Recruitment of victims suggests that these victims are often runaways or are on the street due to family or substance abuse problems.
  • These trafficking victims made $300 – $1,000 per night (focusing on the Harrisburg, PA prostitution ring originating in Toledo).
  • In Toledo, the criminal justice community has made significant changes to promote awareness, identification, and investigation of human trafficking cases.  In Columbus, however, there is very little awareness of this issue.

Key Policy Considerations from Rand Corp Study:

Need for greater awareness among the general public, potential first responders, parents, prosecutors, and other justice system personnel.  This would be provided in two parts: general awareness information to all parties, and stakeholder-specific training (such as law enforcement, hospital workers, etc.).

Improved services for human trafficking victims.  These could include safe havens, secure placement, short and long-term housing assistance, treatment and outreach, legal aid services, etc.

The need to address the “demand” side of trafficking.  This may include john schools, increased penalties for johns and others who benefit from the trafficking of the victim, etc.  Also, better mechanisms to prosecute the owners of various establishments if they are found to house illegal businesses.

Need for more personnel and resources (including financial) to address this issue.  Human trafficking investigations consume significant amounts of time and are low-yield in terms of prosecution.

Refinement of departmental policies.  There are at least three changes that should be made:

  1. A screening process and standard protocol for law enforcement personnel to follow when interacting with human trafficking victims (what questions to ask, what behaviors to watch for, etc.).
  2. Addressing overlapping jurisdictional issues to assist victims – such as a shelter only serving a certain county, etc.
  3. Helping child welfare and juvenile welfare agencies to see an underage prostitute as a victim, not a criminal. Make this person have a higher priority in the system.

What Do I Look For?

This information is taken from the following website link:

Quick Guide to Victim Identification

Red Flags

There are some indicators which may raise a red flag that a person may be a victim of human trafficking. You may want to take a second look at situations where a person:

  • Appears to be under someone else’s control. They appear to be under someone else’s surveillance at all times. All or most contacts with family, friends, and professionals are controlled and monitored. They are rarely alone.
  • Is unable to move to a new location or leave their job.
  • Does not manage their own money/ or their money is largely controlled by someone else.
  • Is not in control of their own identification or travel documents.
  • Works excessive hours.
  • Is unpaid for their work or paid very little.
  • Lives with multiple people in a very cramped space.
  • Lives with their employer.
  • Has no English language skills or knowledge of the local community
  • Appears to have little privacy or is rarely alone.
  • Appears to have visible injuries or scars, such as cuts, bruises, or burns. May have injuries around the head, face, and mouth from being struck in the head or face.
  • Has untreated illnesses or infections, particularly sexually transmitted diseases. May have general poor health and/or diseases associated with un-sanitary living conditions.
  • Exhibits submissive behavior or fearful behavior in the presence of others.
  • Exhibits emotional distress such as depression, anxiety, manifestations of trauma, self-inflicted injuries or suicide attempts.
  • Engages in prostitution or living in a brothel.
  • Is sexually exploited in strip clubs, massage parlors, pornography.
  • Is under the age of 18, in prostitution, or hanging around adult entertainment businesses such as strip clubs, massage parlors, adult book/video stores, etc.

Questions to Ask

The following questions can help you identify victims if you encounter them:

  1. Are you now being (or have you at one time been) held against your will?
  2. Were you ever forced or intimidated to do something against your will?
  3. Do you have a choice of where you work and how much you work?
  4. Have you been abused or beaten by your employers?
  5. Can you come and go as you please?
  6. Are you paid?
  7. How many hours/day and days/week do you work?
  8. Have you or your family been threatened to prevent you from leaving?
  9. Upon arrival in the U.S. did someone ask you to pay back a debt?
  10. Are you doing what you were told you would be doing in the U.S.?
  11. Who has your passport/identification papers?

The following links are tremendous resources for identifying trafficking victims:

What Can I Do?

You can help stop human trafficking and modern-day slavery by taking action now.

Become Informed
Visit the websites below and learn all that you can about human trafficking.  Stay connected by signing up with any one of several e-mail lists.

Educate and expose the truth about modern day slavery
Talk with your family, friends, colleagues, and classmates about the issue of human trafficking. Host a training session or home meeting and educate others about this issue. Write Op/Eds for a local paper, write about trafficking in an online blog, or work to include information about human trafficking in local newsletters or bulletins. Hang anti-trafficking posters in your church and businesses around town.  Make brochures available in your church foyer.

Give Financially
Donate your time or money to a local organization that is assisting those who are victims of sexual exploitation or labor trafficking.

Organize and encourage enforcement of the Ohio Community Defense Act
Strip clubs and other adult businesses are many times fronts for trafficking and prostitution.  Encourage your local law enforcement to crack down on these businesses through use of current state law and local ordinances.

Support Federal and State Anti-trafficking Legislation
Write a note or make a call to your Member of Congress.  Be willing to speak out or give written testimony when Ohio legislation is introduced.

Become a Rescue & Restore Coalition Partner
If your organization is interested in becoming a partner in the Rescue & Restore campaign coalition, please e-mail to and find a coalition near you.  Cincinnati and the Central Ohio (Columbus) areas both now have a Rescue and Restore Coalition.

Links to Trafficking Websites: