What exactly is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, with more than 40 million victims worldwide.

Simply put, human trafficking is any time a person is forced, tricked, or manipulated into providing labor or sexual service for someone else’s financial gain. Or, anytime a child is involved in a commercial sex act, whether or not there is someone directly forcing them to do so.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000) defines severe human trafficking as —

(8) SEVERE FORMS OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS. – The term “severe forms of trafficking in persons” means –

(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, obtaining, patronizing, soliciting or advertising 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.

(9) SEX TRAFFICKING.- The term “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.

Does it happen here?

It’s common to think of a crime happening on the other side of the world when we hear “human trafficking.” However, human trafficking, both labor and sex trafficking, happen in every country in the world, including the United States. This crime effects men, women, boys and girls, of all ages.

Learn more about human trafficking in the communities UnBound serves.

How does this happen?

Human trafficking usually happens under the radar, so it can be hard to get a complete picture of what this crime looks like. However, there are some common themes surrounding trafficking observed throughout the United States.

1) Traffickers look for vulnerabilities as they target victims. In labor trafficking, common vulnerabilities include being from another country, documentation status, lack of economic opportunity, and low levels of formal education. In sex trafficking, common vulnerabilities include homelessness, history of abuse, involvement in the commercial sex industry, substance abuse, and more. For child sex trafficking, other common vulnerabilities include low self-esteem, familial strife, running away, involvement in child welfare and more. Although these are common themes, anyone can be a victim.

2) Many victims don’t realize they are human trafficking victims. Traffickers are often expert manipulators and may lead their victims down a path of exploitation, filled with lies, false promises, and coercion. This makes it very difficult for victims to reach out for help, either from fear, false beliefs, or lack of awareness. Victims of human trafficking are in our schools, our neighborhoods, our industries, our communities.

3) Trafficking is a supply and demand business. Because there is a demand for cheap labor and a demand for commercial sex, human trafficking continues to exist. With sex trafficking, engagement in the commercial sex industry, whether in viewing pornography or purchasing sex, is creating profit for traffickers that drives demand. As we work to prevent trafficking and strengthen the protective factors of our communities, we also have to educate and fight the demand.

Learn more, on the blog.

UnBound is activating local communities to fight human trafficking through:

Prevention & Awareness

UnBound works to educate and empower youth, spread awareness through citywide outreaches and provide human-trafficking presentations to groups and organizations within local communities.

Professional training

UnBound provides professional training to lawyers, medical professionals, educators, social service providers and more to equip all professional to use their skills to identify and serve victims of human trafficking.

Survivor Advocacy

UnBound advocates for survivors by providing for immediate needs, offering support to caregivers, volunteering services and connecting with aftercare programs to help each survivor through his or her unique restoration process.


Our Story

When we learned of children being sold into sex trafficking in our own communities, we felt compelled to do our part to stop it. We asked: What if attorneys, IT specialists, teachers, moms, medical professionals—all spheres of society—worked together? Starting small, we realized that a lot of small adds up to something really big. By working together through prevention, professional training and survivor advocacy, we’ve started to see communities activated to fight human trafficking.

Headquartered in Waco, Texas, UnBound has locations around the United States and across the world working to see change in their own communities. Each location works in different areas based on the needs of their city. To find out more about UnBound locations, check out our locations.


Our Values

  1. Hope Driven: In the dark world of human trafficking, we believe there is hope. Our hope comes from three main sources: our faith, our community, and the survivors we serve. We believe in a God of justice and restoration, who has called us to respond to this need. We are encouraged by a community ready to take action in the fight. And we are inspired by the strength, resilience and courage of the men, women and children we serve.
  2. Service Oriented: We actively seek to fill the needs and gaps in service in our community. As we serve survivors, we are also eager to serve our partners in law enforcement, hospitals, schools, and more.
  3. Excellence Focused: UnBound is committed to maintaining excellence in the service we provide. By following best practices, staying up-to-date on research, training our teams, and providing evidence-based programs, we seek to offer the best service to our community.