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Human Trafficking

by Alyssa Nogaski


“There are more slaves in the world today than were extracted from Africa during 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”


Gary Haugen


As I was getting my hair cut, the stylist asked me what I do for a living. I told her that although I do research at a non-profit social service agency, my real love is my involvement with a group called TraffickFree. She asked me what that was—and I told her it is a group of people, artists, students, doctors, managers, clerks, all working toward ending human trafficking on a local level in Chicago, Illinois. TrafficFree seeks to spread awareness about the issue of trafficking as well as partner with other organizations providing services to victims of trafficking. We work to support these women, children and men in any way possible.


My stylist had no idea what human trafficking even was, and after I explained it to her, she said, “Yeah, but that’s only over there,” pointing vaguely to what I assumed was overseas. At that moment I realized people do not even know what happens in our own country—or even in our own neighborhoods. I have found my passion in talking with people about human trafficking. It is a cause that concerns everyone, everywhere.


What is human trafficking?


         It is a modern-day form of slavery. It is the business of exploiting vulnerable women, men, and children in conditions of sexual and labor servitude.

         Traffickers use fraud, deception, coercion, threats, and force, to transport, harbor, or obtain a person to perform commercial sex or labor acts against their will.

         Persons do not have to have been transported internationally to be considered victims of trafficking.

         Forms of trafficking include: sex trafficking, labor trafficking, child trafficking, and domestic servitude.

         It is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, after drug trade.

         Sex trafficked victims are often found in establishments under the guise of massage parlors, adult bookstores, escort services, strip clubs, and modeling studios. Labor trafficked victims are often found in restaurants, custodial jobs, nannies, maids, agricultural fields, and construction sites.



Human trafficking is an international issue as well as a domestic issue. An estimated 27 million people are trafficked worldwide. More than $32 billion is made in profits from trafficking humans. According to the State Department (U.S. DOS, 2008) 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked each year, with around 15,000 being trafficked into the U.S. The Salvation Army estimates that up to 150,000 foreign victims of slavery are in the United States from 49 countries in Africa, Arab countries, Southeast Asia, and nations formerly part of the Soviet Union (Frederick, 2007). Of the foreign victims trafficked into the U.S., approximately 50 percent are under the age of 18, and 80 percent are female (U.S. DOJ, 2003). In the United States, $250,000 can be made from one trafficked woman.


So after all these statistics, what can YOU do to end human trafficking on a local, state, national, and international level?


  1. Click here to make sure that you are not buying clothing from companies that use slave labor.
  2. Find out which companies have committed to staying slave-free here and buy products, such as slave-free coffee and chocolate, to support their mission.
  3. Be aware of signs of human trafficking victims: they avoid direct eye contact, won’t volunteer information or identify themselves as a slave out of fear, may have no identity or travel documents, are nervous, may not speak English well, or have physical bruises. One in three cases are pursued because of civilian intervention.
  4. Call the national hotline at (888) 373-7888 if you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking.
  5. Talk to friends and family about human trafficking and its prevalence.
  6. Attend meetings of organizations fighting human trafficking and look for ways to get involved.  

For more information, go to 


“Free the Supply: End the Demand.”



Alyssa Nogaski is a research analyst at the Social IMPACT Research Center, a program of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights, based in Chicago, Illinois. In addition, she is the Victim Care Lead and Volunteer Coordinator for TraffickFree, a Chicago-based anti-human trafficking organization.  Alyssa received her undergraduate degree at Central Michigan University and her MSW at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Alyssa is passionate about social justice and enjoys reading, researching, and writing about human rights issues.


Have a good cause close to your heart? A story about how a non-profit has helped you? An idea you’d like to bring into the light on ways to help others? E-mail our A Good Cause Editor, Lorena Audra Rutens, and tell her about it. Write “A Good Cause” in the subject line. She just might feature you in our next issue.

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