The Typology of Modern Slavery offers a map for taking the next steps in creating a world without slavery.

The Typology of Modern Slavery: Defining Sex and Labor Trafficking in the United States
From sex trafficking within escort services to labor trafficking of farmworkers, the ways humans are exploited differ greatly. Each type has unique strategies for recruiting and controlling victims, and concealing the crime.

For years, we have been staring at an incomplete chess game, moving pieces without seeing hidden squares or fully understanding the power relationships between players. With The Typology of Modern Slavery, our blurry understanding of the scope of the crime is now coming into sharper focus.

Polaris analyzed more than 32,000 cases of human trafficking documented between December 2007 and December 2016 through its operation of the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline—the largest data set on human trafficking in the United States ever compiled and publically analyzed. Polaris’s research team analyzed the data and developed a classification system that identifies 25 types of human trafficking in the United States. Each has its own business model, trafficker profiles, recruitment strategies, victim profiles, and methods of control that facilitate human trafficking.

Escort Services is a broad term that refers to commercial sex acts that primarily occur at a temporary indoor location. The operations are often described as “out-call,” where traffickers deliver victims to a buyer’s hotel room or residence for “private parties,” or as “in-call,” where potential buyers cycle in and out of a hotel room where the trafficker confines victim for extended stays.

There have been fluctuations in popular online advertising platforms for commercial sex, but the most prevalent online marketplace is Though Backpage closed its U.S. Adult Services section in January 2017 due pressure from the U.S. Senate, Backpage accounts for over 1,300 cases of trafficking and remains a driving force in global sexual exploitation.

Illicit massage, health, and beauty businesses present a façade of legitimate spa services, concealing that their primary business is the sex and labor trafficking of women trapped in these businesses. Although they appear to be single storefronts, the majority are controlled as part of larger networks – with one to three people owning several businesses at a time. Research suggests there are at least 7,000 storefronts in the U.S., and possibly far more.

Most victims of illicit massage businesses are women from the mid-thirties to late fifties from China and South Korea. In other illicit health and beauty businesses, labor trafficking survivors are typically younger females (mid-twenties and older) from Southeast Asia.

Outdoor solicitation occurs when traffickers force victims to find buyers in an outdoor, public setting. In cities, this occurs on a particular block or at cross streets known for commercial sex and often referred to as a “track” or “stroll.” In rural areas, it frequently takes place at rest stops along major highways.

According to Polaris-operated hotline data, survivors are overwhelmingly U.S. citizen women and girls. Women and girls of color are also disproportionately represented in the data. While victims represent diverse experiences and socioeconomic backgrounds, certain inequalities and societal factors may make particular individuals especially vulnerable. These factors include histories of trauma and abuse, addiction, chronic mental health issues, and homelessness. Runaway and homeless youth are particularly vulnerable.

Bars, Strips Clubs, & Cantinas
Human trafficking happens in legitimate bars, restaurants, or clubs selling food and alcohol while exploiting victims for both sex and labor behind the scenes. Victims must provide customers with flirtatious companionship to entice them to purchase highpriced alcoholic beverages, often with an explicit or implicit agreement for commercial sex acts. Some bars and cantinas are entirely run by organized human trafficking networks. Many strip clubs and go-go clubs are associated with this type of sex and labor trafficking.

Frequent victims are women and girls from Mexico and Central America aged 14 to 29, and clientele is normally men from local Latino communities. Most trafficking in go-go and strip clubs involve U.S. citizen and Eastern European women and girls.

The National Hotline has documented cases of family members, intimate partners, and individual sex traffickers earning profit from distributing a victim’s non-consenting appearance in pornographic material. The related issue of “revenge porn” is also a concern within relationship violence and can be considered high risk for sex trafficking. This type also includes the production and distribution of child pornography.

While some tips of sex trafficking in pornography supply limited data due to the caller’s distance from the situation, hotline data has revealed that survivors tend to be U.S. citizens. While most survivors in these cases are female, the rate of male victimization is four times the rate in other sex trafficking types.

Peddling & Begging
Forced peddling and begging is a well-known type of labor trafficking globally, but Polarisoperated hotlines tend to receive fewer direct reports from victims of this type in the U.S. due to a limited number of victims willing to speak out. One peddling scheme revealed by hotline data involves traffickers who pose under the guise of a seemingly legitimate charitable or religious organization claiming to provide trips and enrichment services to “at-risk youth.” In fact, these rings exploit young U.S. children by forcing them to sell candy or baked goods, or solicit “donations” on streets or in shopping centers.

Due to limited data, little is known. Some case data has shown familial links with traffickers forcing their more vulnerable family members into begging.

Agriculture & Animal Husbandry
Traffickers exploit workers in the agriculture and animal husbandry industry, from corn fields to orange orchards to dairy farms. Some crops such as tobacco—the crop cited most often on Polaris-operated hotlines—require much more intensive labor to harvest, making them more susceptible to forced labor or exploitation. Others frequently mentioned are cattle/dairy, oranges, tomatoes, and strawberries.

Often an agricultural contract will promise an hourly rate but then pay on a piece-rate basis, which severely limits earning potential and further entraps the victims. Abuse and exploitation of agricultural workers can happen at multiple levels due to the complex labor supply chain of recruiters, managers, contractors, subcontractors, growers, and buyers.

Labor trafficking in the construction industry usually occurs within small contracting businesses completing tasks such as roofing, carpentry, welding, electrical work, and masonry on both large commercial construction sites as well as in private homes. Employers may misclassify workers as independent contractors, thus limiting their access to worker protections and benefits.

The majority of survivors are men from Mexico and the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala), most of whom have H-2B visas or are undocumented. U.S. citizen survivors have also been forced to perform construction jobs under the control of fraudulent religious organizations, unscrupulous residential and drug recovery programs, and individuals posing as landlords exploiting a victim’s homelessness.

Hotels & Hospitality
Victims of labor trafficking have been found in hospitality businesses such as hotels, motels, resorts, or casinos working as front desk attendants, bell staff, and, most frequently, in housekeeping. Most are women and men from Jamaica, the Philippines, and India, and typically they are told that they will make lucrative wages to support family back home. Most victims enter the job with an H-2B visa, which restricts visa portability, tying victims to their abusive employer. J-1 visas are also used, though less frequently.

U.S. citizen victims have also been reported to the hotline. Adults made up the vast majority of victims reported to Polaris-operated hotlines.

Victims of labor trafficking in landscaping are responsible for maintaining public or private grounds, gardens, and nurseries. Landscaping is the most commonly referenced type of labor trafficking and exploitation involving H-2B visa holders in cases reported to Polaris-operated hotlines. H-2B visa holders are not eligible for federally funded legal services, making it extremely difficult to secure services for victims in landscaping.

Sixty-three percent of hotline cases involved men from Mexico. Some of the workers were from Guatemala or were U.S. citizens. Cases involving women and children are rare, according to Polaris-operated hotlines.

Arts & Entertainment
Cases of labor trafficking have been reported to Polaris-operated hotlines in a variety of sectors of the arts and entertainment industry, including modeling, athletics and, less commonly, in performing arts such as acting, choirs, and dance troupes. The hotlines also have received reports of labor trafficking in exotic dancing. While the lines between sex and labor trafficking in strip clubs is often complex, if the adult victim is forced into exotic dancing with no accompanying sex act, this would be classified as labor trafficking.

Young women (both U.S. and foreign nationals) are often victimized in the modeling industry. Labor trafficking in athletics often involves boys and young men from Latin America and West Africa, and U.S. citizen women are the majority trafficked for labor in strip clubs.

Commercial Cleaning Services
The National Hotline has encountered trafficking and labor exploitation within commercial cleaning businesses that provide janitorial and housekeeping services to multiple private households, office buildings, and other commercial businesses. Though limited data is available, there is sufficient evidence that foreign national men, women, and unaccompanied children from Latin America are most susceptible to labor trafficking within these businesses. Others are from the Philippines and the Caribbean or are U.S. citizens.

Labor exploitation and human trafficking cases involving carnival workers have been reported to the National Hotline. Workers are responsible for operating rides, games, and food stands, as well as for assembling and disassembling carnival equipment for movement between cities. Carnival companies may contract with state and county fairs to provide rides and games, and a small number of companies and recruiters dominate the U.S. carnival industry.

Most cases involve men and women from Mexico or South Africa on H-2B visas. While some U.S. citizens have been documented to work at carnivals, the extent of their potential exploitation is relatively unknown.

Forestry & Logging
According to data from Polaris-operated hotlines, trafficking in the forestry industry has included pine tree farm workers, reforestation planters, loggers, and workers maintaining woodland areas. Survivors in forestry are almost exclusively men from Mexico and Guatemala on H-2B visas, according to cases reported to the National Hotline.

Health Care
Labor trafficking victims in the healthcare industry are primarily found in nursing homes and as home health aides. The lines between domestic work and in-home health care can be difficult to ascertain, since some domestic caregivers are expected to provide medical services without proper certification. Because of these intersections, it is important to consider both industries when crafting intervention and disruption efforts.

Migrant women from the Philippines are most prevalent in hotline data, followed by West African immigrant women and U.S. citizens. Victims may possess H-1B, H-2B, J-1, or H-1C (registered nurse) visas. Male survivors are involved in 23 percent of labor trafficking within the healthcare industry, according to Polaris-operated hotline cases.

Recreational Facilities
Labor trafficking for work in recreational facilities has been reported to the National Hotline in amusement parks, summer camps, golf courses, and community swimming pools, though it may also occur in other sectors of this industry. Positions at these facilities include lifeguards, camp counselors, ride attendants, and food vendors.

While victims of labor exploitation tend to be young adults on J-1 visas as part of the work and travel program, nationalities run the gamut from countries across Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and even the U.S. (about one-third of trafficking cases), according to hotline data.

Remote Interactive Sexual Acts
Remote interactive sexual acts are live commercial sex acts simulated through remote contact between the buyer and victim through webcams, text based chats, and phone sex lines. Because of the lack of physical contact between the victim and buyer, traffickers can frame this business as a “low-risk” endeavor—but it is still sex trafficking if the victims are compelled to participate under force, fraud, or coercion, or if the victim is under the age of 18.

In the limited number of reported cases, U.S. citizen females are the most frequent victims; minors are victimized in just under half of all cases. The same data has also revealed a surprising 12 percent of cases involve the LGBTQ community.


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