What is human trafficking?

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Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. You might be thinking, "But I thought slavery was abolished by Lincoln!" True, he helped make it illegal. But an underground market in trafficking victims is still alive and well, both in the US and abroad. And the trauma doesn't end once a victim escapes trafficking; oftentimes, they're treated as criminals themselves. Thirty-nine states in the US do not have "safe harbor" laws, which mandate that youth survivors should be treated as victims rather than criminals, and even when survivors are able to seek help, there's extremely limited funding for organizations that support them.

Sex Trafficking in the US

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Sex trafficking occurs when a child is involved in the commercial sex trade, and when adults are coerced or forced into the commercial sex trade under the control of a pimp. It happens all over the US, from NYC to Atlanta. And even though we've become accustomed to seeing and hearing about pimps in pop culture, it's rare that we see the whole story.

  • Go inside the backstory of a sex trafficking survivor.
  • To hear poetry written by survivors of domestic sex trafficking, click here.
  • Visit Polaris Project to find out more about sex trafficking.
  • To find out more about the commercial sexual exploitation of children and domestic trafficking, visit GEMS.

Labor Trafficking in the US

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Labor trafficking occurs in all sorts of industries, from farms and factories to nail salons and restaurants, and even in people's homes. Victims can be American citizens, undocumented workers, or exploited workers legally here on a visa.

Slavery and Trafficking Abroad

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Human trafficking takes place all over the world, especially in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Between 12 and 27 million people worldwide are estimated to be enslaved.

  • Learn more about what's happening overseas with MTV EXIT, MTV International's human trafficking campaign.
  • Find out how modern-day abolitionists are taking action abroad at Free the Slaves' site.