Skip to content

Where Human Trafficking Happens

No community or region, whether affluent or impoverished, is immune to the effects of human trafficking.

Even in the United States.

Many Americans think that human trafficking only happens “somewhere else” – like in Thailand, India, or maybe Mexico. Somewhere “over there.” It’s hard to fathom that human trafficking takes place in urban and rural communities throughout the U.S., too.

This is a global crime with no geographical or economic bounds. But you may ask yourself: if human trafficking is such a big problem, where does it happen?

How many countries are impacted by human trafficking?

Every country in the world likely has some form of human trafficking occurring. Most countries are both source and destination countries – meaning that people are sold inside their borders as well as sent outside their country to be trafficked in another country.

Additionally, most countries have instances in which their own citizens have been trafficked within their borders as well as those foreign to their country.

Are there any cultural or regional differences that impact human trafficking?

Human trafficking certainly has underlying characteristics that look the same everywhere, but its impact varies greatly depending on a country’s culture, government regulation, laws, and their enforcement, as well as other regional history and dynamics.

Does human trafficking really happen in the U.S.?

Yes. In all 50 states, in rural areas as well as large cities and everywhere in between. To U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals.

So, why don’t we see it? 

You may not know what to look for. And the signs that you may be looking for aren’t always there, or are wrong all together:

  • Trafficking victims aren’t always bound in chains and shackles.
  • Trafficking victims aren’t always minors – they can be adults. Female or male.
  • Trafficking doesn’t always look like prostitution. It has many forms including domestic servitude, migrant workers and other forms of exploitation.
These are just a few examples of misconceptions about human trafficking.
Does this really happen in my community?
Human trafficking doesn’t exist only in big cities like New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami or Los Angeles. It happens in . It’s important to know it may look or present different in each community.

Trafficking situations in rural areas of the U.S. aren’t often covered in the media, so most people are unfamiliar with what these cases might look like in these communities. For instance, both sex and labor trafficking can be found outside of metropolitan areas.

Human trafficking in rural areas is also harder to spot because there are fewer services available to a victim and often less training for these providers to identify a victim when they do access services.

Why is human trafficking so difficult to track?

There are several reports that give a thorough review of what human trafficking looks like in many different countries all over the world. However, it is nearly impossible for any report to cover all aspects and geographic locations of trafficking situations.

These reports do their best at presenting the most comprehensive data possible, but it’s incredibly difficult to get perfectly accurate information. This is in part because victims often do not self-identify as having been trafficked.

The more you know, the more you can help.

If we don’t know what to look for or where to look, we won’t see this crime to report it and make progress toward ending it. To learn more about where human trafficking happens, challenges to identification, and more, register for the “Learn How to End Human Trafficking” course series.

You can learn more about what human trafficking looks like in your community by keeping an eye on local news. You can set up a Google Alert to email you news stories on a specific topic like “human trafficking in Syracuse, New York. Research your region for organizations and coalitions to learn from as well as volunteer with.

If you suspect a trafficking situation call the National Human Trafficking Hotline now: 1-888-373-7888