Human Trafficking

Some individuals may find the information on this page triggering. If you feel the need to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, we encourage you to do so. You can reach the hotline 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888. You can reach the hotline via text by sending “BeFree” to 233733. You can also chat with the hotline online, accessible here.

Human trafficking encompasses both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Under United States law, human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor or services against his or her will. However, inducing a minor into commercial sex is considered human trafficking regardless of the presence of force, fraud or coercion.

Although human trafficking can happen to anyone, some individuals are more vulnerable than others. Significant risk factors include recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the children welfare system and being a runaway or homeless youth. Traffickers often identify and leverage an individual’s vulnerabilities in order to create a dependency. Traffickers may also use physical and emotional abuse and threats, isolation from friends and family, and economic abuse to trap victims. A trafficked individual may exhibit a variety of warning signs.

Traffickers span all racial, ethnic, and gender demographics and are as diverse as survivors. Some use their privilege, wealth, and power as a means of control while others experience the same socio-economic oppression as their victims.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline has dispelled myths surrounding trafficking. To access statistics regarding human trafficking in the United States, click here.

If you are being trafficked, there is help. You can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888 and seek assistance. You can also text the Hotline by sending “BeFree” to 233733 or chat with the hotline online. You may want to create a safety plan. *

For those who would like to learn more, we recommend the following books, documentaries, and Ted talks. For self care books and other resources, click here.

Note: Unapologetically Surviving is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This page contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will reward Unapologetically Surviving a small commission – at no extra cost to you!


Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy by Barbara Ehrenreich

Confronting a range of topics from the fate of Vietnamese mail-order brides to the importation of Mexican nannies in Los Angeles, Global Woman offers an original look at a world increasingly shaped by mass migration and economic exchange. Collected and with an Introduction by bestselling social critics Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, this groundbreaking anthology reveals a new era in which the main resource extracted from developing nations is no longer gold or silver, but love.

Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo by Rhacel Parreñas

Illicit Flirtations challenges our understandings of human trafficking and calls into question the U.S. policy to broadly label these women as sex trafficked. It highlights how in imposing top-down legal constraints to solve the perceived problems―including laws that push dependence on migrant brokers, guest worker policies that bind migrants to an employer, marriage laws that limit the integration of migrants, and measures that criminalize undocumented migrants―many women become more vulnerable to exploitation, not less. It is not the jobs themselves, but the regulation that makes migrants susceptible to trafficking. If we are to end the exploitation of people, we first need to understand the actual experiences of migrants, not rest on global policy statements. This book gives a long overdue look into the real world of those labeled as trafficked.

The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam

Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. Trapped in this dangerous and desperate world, she suffered the brutality and horrors of human trafficking—rape, torture, deprivation—until she managed to escape with the help of a French aid worker.  Written in exquisite, spare, unflinching prose, The Road of Lost Innocence recounts the experiences of her early life and tells the story of her awakening as an activist and her harrowing and brave fight against the powerful and corrupt forces that steal the lives of these girls. Her memoir will leave you awestruck by her tenacity and courage and will renew your faith in the power of an individual to bring about change.

Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System by Cyntoia Brown-Long

At the age of sixteen, Cyntoia Brown, a survivor of human trafficking, was arrested for killing a man who had picked her up for sex. Two years later, she was sentenced to life in prison. Brown reflects on the isolation, low self-esteem, and sense of alienation that drove her straight into the hands of a predator. In these pages, Cyntoia shares the details of her transformation, including a profound encounter with God, an unlikely romance, an unprecedented outpouring of support from social media advocates and A-list celebrities, and her release from prison. A coming-of-age memoir set against the shocking backdrop of a life behind bars, Free Cyntoia takes you on a spiritual journey as Cyntoia struggles to overcome a lifetime of feeling ostracized and abandoned by society.

Click here to return to top.


The Day My God Died (2003) recounts the stories of several Nepalese girls who were forced into the international child sex trade. In Bombay alone, 90 new cases of HIV infection are reported every hour, and the victims are getting younger: two decades ago, most women in India’s brothels were in their twenties or thirties. Today, the average age is 14. The Day My God Died puts a human face on these abstract numbers.

Tricked (2013) is a documentary film that documents human sex trafficking, and its presence within the United States, from the perspectives of the victims involved in sex trafficking, the “johns” who pay for the sex, and the pimps responsible for instigating the illegal business.

Click here to return to top.

Ted Talks

Noy Thrupkaew: Human trafficking is all around you. This is how it works.

Trigger Warning: Mentions of domestic violence

Behind the everyday bargains we all love — the $10 manicure, the unlimited shrimp buffet — is a hidden world of forced labor to keep those prices at rock bottom. Noy Thrupkaew investigates human trafficking – which flourishes in the US and Europe, as well as developing countries – and shows us the human faces behind the exploited labor that feeds global consumers.

Sunitha Krishnan: The fight against sex slavery

Trigger Warning: Mentions of rape, sexual exploitation 

Sunitha Krishnan has dedicated her life to rescuing women and children from sex slavery, a multimilion-dollar global market. In this courageous talk, she tells three powerful stories, as well as her own, and calls for a more humane approach to helping these young victims rebuild their lives.

Theresa Flores: Find a voice with soap 

Trigger Warning: Mention of rape, sex trafficking 

Theresa’s passionate advocacy for one of the most vulnerable segments of our society is inspired by her own horrifying experience. As she introduces you to a world far beyond your mind’s reach, she’ll show it can really be found next door. And how one answer to it all might be found in a tiny bar of soap.

Click here to return to the top.

*Material adopted from The National Human Trafficking Hotline.