6/12/2024 12:00 AM

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Human trafficking and sexual exploitation:  the statistics behind the stories

The stories of those who have survived human trafficking and sexual exploitation are the driving force behind our World Without Exploitation​ efforts.​ But statistics also inspire our movement, providing us with a number-based sense of the scope and scale of the problem. What follows is a curated summation of some of the most reliable research available. We hope that the studies summarized below cause you to think, feel, and act on behalf of those who have been trafficked or exploited.

Download the full report (PDF)

Human trafficking & sexual exploitation in the US

Not just global, but local

Trafficked and prostituted youth

Too vulnerable, too soon

Violence in the sex trade

Risky "business"

Foster care, homelessness and exploitation

Seeking safe haven

Prevalence of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the U.S.


Commercial sex trafficking


Labor trafficking

1,220 cases of human trafficking were reported to state law enforcement agencies in 2015. Of these cases, 81% involved commercial sex trafficking and 19% involved labor trafficking. (1)


A recent study found that more than 30% of unauthorized migrant laborers in San Diego County were victims of trafficking violations, most inflicted by employers at the workplace - not smugglers. (3)


potential human trafficking cases were reported by the public to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline between December of 2007 and December 31, 2018. (2)

Trafficked youth

570 children

were arrested for “prostitution” in 2014.  Seventy-five of them were under 15. (1)


was the estimated average age of entry for girls in the sex trade in a 2015 study. (2) For many children in another study, the age of first exploitation was 11 or younger. (3)


of prostituted children in one New York study report having been victims of child abuse and neglect. (4)

Violence in the sex trade


of trafficked women in one study report being subjected to physical violence, such as being shot, strangled, burned, beaten, stabbed, or punched. Many are victims of multiple forms of violence. Respondents reported an average of 6.25 of the 12 forms of violence. (1)


Report suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Had attempted suicide at least once


of sex buyers in a Chicago study believe that if a man pays for sex, the woman should do anything they ask. (2)


of young prostituted women in a Chicago study reported being raped by pimps or buyers. (3)

Characteristics of those involved in the sex trade

< 15

is the age at which many first became involved in the sex trade. Those who were trafficked as children were often prostituted at even younger ages. One study found that over 33% were trafficked between 11-13 years old. (1)

Up to 84%

of prostituted women and girls are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, according to multiple studies. Most research studies show percentages between 70-75%. (2)


of the child sex trafficking victims recovered as part of an FBI seven city raid were children from foster care or group homes. (3)


of prostituted adult women in a San Diego program were currently or previously homeless. (4)

Substance use and abuse are common among those in the sex trade. However, Multiple studies show that abuse and addiction lead to involvement in the sex trade, as well as occur as a result of becoming involved in the sex trade. (5) (6) (7) (8)

Men who buy sex in the US


Only 13.9% of men 18-75 reported paying for sex in their lifetime. (1)


of sex buyers in a Chicago study believed that if they pay for sex, a woman should do anything they ask. (2)


of posts made by buyers in a prostitution chat room express contempt for females in prostitution: they’re “meat” or “merchandise.” (3)

Sex traffickers and pimps


of pimps use coercion and/or threats of violence. Forty-four percent of traffickers used violence on their victims. (1)


Average annual income made by traffickers in San Diego. (2)


of trafficked children in upstate New York were trafficked by parents or other family members. (3)


of young prostituted women in Chicago considered their pimp their boyfriend. (4)

Pimps' primary means of coercion:
Economic – 74% 
Psychological – 57% 
Chemical – 42%.
Physical or sexual violence - 12%. (5)

Sex traffickers and pimps


of active, high-frequency sex buyers in the U.S. had browsed online for paid sex. (1)


Average verified age of prostituted females advertising online, though the advertised ages were 18-26, according to a study of hundreds of these ads. The age range was 14-18. (2)