Office of the Arizona Governor Doug Ducey
Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family

Human Trafficking
Awareness & Prevention

What is Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a public health and safety issue that impacts individuals, families and communities around the world. Traffickers routinely target at-risk populations. Victims are often individuals who have experienced or been exposed to forms of violence, such as: child abuse, maltreatment, interpersonal violence, sexual assault, and community and gang violence, or individuals that lack a stable support system, such as: runaway and homeless youth, unaccompanied minors, and persons displaced during natural disasters.

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The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 was the first comprehensive federal law to address trafficking in persons. The TVPA, which has been reauthorized through the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013, includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking as severe forms of trafficking in persons.

Definition HT

Human trafficking is a crime under federal and international law. It is also a crime in every state in the U.S. It is important to understand from the federal definition that anyone under the age of 18 who is induced to perform a commercial sex act is automatically a trafficking victim.

Who Are The Victims?

Anyone can be a victim of trafficking. While there is no commonly accepted profile for victims of minor sex trafficking, certain populations are more vulnerable than others. Traffickers frequently target at-risk populations, including individuals exposed to:

  • child abuse & maltreatment
  • interpersonal violence
  • sexual assault
  • community violence
  • gang violence

Individuals lacking a stable support network are also frequently targeted by traffickers. These populations include:

  • runaway youth
  • homeless youth
  • unaccompanied minors
  • persons displaced during natural disasters


How do individuals become victims of trafficking?

Vulnerable youth can be lured into trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation using promises, psychological manipulations, provision of drugs and alcohol, and violence. The trafficker’s main purpose is financial gain and they will make every effort to establish trust and allegiance by wooing victims into what feels like a loving and caring relationship. Traffickers invest a lot of time and effort in forming a bond with their victim. They often buy gifts, provide a place to stay, and give affection before revealing their true intent to sexually exploit them. Traffickers use a powerful technique pioneered by religious cults known as "love bombing" in which a girl is showered with affection as a means of manipulating her.* The trafficker's use of psychological manipulation, physical violence and rape can make the victim feel trapped and powerless. The "trauma bond" is very difficult to break and may require intensive long term treatment and counseling.**

 Human trafficking victims are often exploited through:

  • Recruitment by “Romeo/boyfriend” traffickers who convince them that they love and care for them.
  • Kidnapping by “gorilla pimp” and forced into the life.
  • Gang related prostitution.
  • A parent or family member pimps their child for drugs or money.
  • Running away and living on the streets and are forced to exchange sex for survival.

HT Recruiting Locations

*Dorais & Corriveau, 2009
**National Center for Missing and Exploited Youth, 2014
Understanding the Mindset of a Victim

Victim Impact - HT

By understanding the mindset of a victim, we can be better equipped to identify and assist victims. 

  • Victims often do not see themselves as victims.
  • Victims may feel shame, self–blame and feelings of unworthiness of a better life.
  • Victims may be coached to lie to nurses and other health professionals and often give fabricated histories with scripted stories.
  • Victims are often fearful and distrust law enforcement and government services due to fear of arrest.
  • Victims often fear for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones due to threats of violence.
  • Victims may have formed a trauma bond with their exploiter and may have deep loyalties and positive feeling for their abuser.
  • Drugs often play a role in sex trafficking situations – sometimes as a way to cope or victims sometime enter “the life” to support a drug habit.