About the Issue


Human Trafficking is the exploitation of human beings through force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of commercial sex or forced labor. Any person under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion was present.

Federal Definition

(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or

(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

(Source: Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000)

Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise of the 21st century. States like California, Texas, Florida and New York are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking because of factors such as: proximity to international borders, numerous ports and airports, significant immigrant populations and large economies that include industries that attract forced labor.

Sari* left her husband and two children in hopes that a job with a diplomat and his family in the U.S. would help her support her family. When she arrived in Los Angeles, her passport was taken away and she was forced to work 16-hour days, seven days a week. She was rarely paid the $50 per month she was promised, and instead endured constant verbal and psychological abuse, including threats against her family back in Indonesia. When Sari finally escaped, she was brought to CAST. She moved into CAST’s shelter, enrolled in ESL classes to improve her English and eventually obtained employment at a local restaurant, as well as occasional housekeeping jobs. With the money she saved, Sari was able to move into a place of her own once she graduated from the program. She is now working with CAST to bring her family to live with her in Los Angeles.

Traffickers do not discriminate based on gender, class, age or race. Victims may be highly skilled and may come to the U.S. on legitimate visas with the promise of lawful work. They are enslaved not only through physical restraint, but also through coercion, fear or intimidation. In today’s global economy, workers can be enslaved by threats of deportation, debt bondage or merely a lack of viable alternatives. The resulting exploitation is essentially a modern form of slavery.

Common Venues/Industries for Labor Trafficking:

  • Domestic Work (e.g., cleaning homes, childcare, elderly care, etc.)
  • Hotel & Restaurant Service (e.g., hospitality services, housekeeping, dishwashing, etc.)
  • Manufacturing (e.g., food processing, making clothing, assembling toys, etc.)
  • Agriculture (e.g., growing food)
  • Health & Beauty Services (e.g., hair braiding, nail salons, etc.)
  • Forced Peddling (e.g., magazine crews)
  • Forced Selling and/or Cultivation of Drugs

Common Venues/Industries for Sex Trafficking:

  • Spas and Massage Parlors
  • Residential or Commercial Brothels
  • Escort Companies
  • Exotic Dancing/Strip Joints
  • Pornography
  • Truck Stops

Chelsea* is a transition age youth from South Los Angeles. She came to CAST nearly a year ago, when she had grown weary of trying to survive on the street and fearful after being stabbed by her pimp. On the same day, she was placed in CAST’s shelter. CAST made sure she had access to mental health services, college classes and life skills workshops. In September, Chelsea began an internship at CAST where she has been instrumental in the development of a model to better engage and serve other sexually exploited children and transition age youth.

If a victim does successfully escape and stay in the U.S., their unfamiliarity with local language, geography and legal protections can leave them helpless on the streets – vulnerable to falling prey to their traffickers once again. With no money, no documents to prove their citizenship and limited skills, they are unable to earn a living and truly find freedom and independence. A victim’s situation can seem hopeless, until they find out that there are organizations like CAST that were created to help them escape this cycle of vulnerability.

Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Not all indicators listed below are present in every human trafficking situation. The presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.

Common Indicators of Human Trafficking:

  • Injuries or signs of physical, psychological or sexual abuse
  • Physical threats, threats of deportation and/or threats of harm to family members
  • Having to work excessive hours or when sick
  • Little pay, no pay or working to pay off a debt
  • Isolation
  • Restricted or scripted communication
  • Inhumane living conditions
  • No ID documentation

Your safety and the safety of the victim is paramount. Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to any suspicion. It is up to law enforcement to investigate suspected cases of human trafficking. To report tips regarding potential human trafficking cases, please contact our toll-free, 24-7 hotline.

888-KEY-2-FREE | 888-539-2373

*Please note that in the interest of client safety and privacy, the images and names on this page do not always represent actual CAST clients.