Human trafficking is a human rights violation whose prevention and response, as well as assisting survivors through recovery from its trauma, require nuanced understanding of power and control dynamics, sexual violence prevention, and harm reduction models. For agencies, advocates, and preventionists who have been engaged in the movement against sexual violence for decades, this knowledge base and its accompanying set of skills are the foundation of our work. Our movement’s commitment to the empowerment model allows us to undo the harm of trafficking and control, little by little, in the ways we help survivors explore choices and find their voice. We understand power and control and how manipulation and abuse occur in relationships and systems, and are familiar with personal, community, cultural, and structural barriers to reporting, recovery, and prosecution.
Human trafficking: Defined
- Force, fraud, and coercion are not required for the definition of sex trafficking for anyone under 18, but are required for the legal definition of labor trafficking with minors.
- Any commercial sex exchange by a minor is considered sex trafficking, even if there is not a third-party exploiter. This definition applies for a minor being violently exploited by an organized, professional trafficker; for a minor being exploited by an abusive “romantic interest,” caregiver, or family member; for a homeless minor who is shown by another homeless minor how they’ve been surviving; and for a minor who self-initiates commercial sex exchange. Any exchange of sex for anything of value by a minor falls under the legal definition (and protections) of human trafficking.
While not all human trafficking involves sexual violence, the history of forced labor has always included rape and sexual abuse as methods of harm, fear, and control, and the modern expression of trafficking is no different. Any trafficking of a human for sex is sexual violence; many instances of trafficking of humans for non-sexual labor also include sexual violence as part of the force and control. Many people who are trafficked for commercial sex are also forced to do other forms of labor. While not all forms of human trafficking involve sexual violence, human trafficking is, broadly, a sexual violence issue. People being trafficked in any form are at significantly higher risk for sexual violence, and frequently have fewer options for recourse, safety, and recovery. As sexual violence agencies, preventionists, and advocates, we can no longer afford to believe that human trafficking is not our issue. Survivors are depending on our insights, perspectives, experience, and wisdom.
If you are member agency of NCCASA, training and technical assistance around how to best serve survivors of human trafficking is included in your membership. And if you are not yet a member, you can find out more information about joining here. NCCASA has been engaged in the movement against human trafficking for over a decade; we encourage you to join us in that movement.
NC Human Trafficking Commission (NCCASA and our member agencies were instrumental in the development of the NCHTC’s Standards of Service for Survivors of Human Trafficking, adopted in 2019)