Skip to main content Skip to main content

Part 4: Characteristics of Victims and Perpetrators

EMS personnel should remember that virtually anyone can be victimized by human trafficking. People who are trafficked for labor or for sex can be young children, teenagers, men, and women from all different walks of life. However, state and federal data have revealed certain statistics about victims and perpetrators.

Most Vulnerable Populations

It is important for EMS personnel to know which populations are most vulnerable to human trafficking. The most vulnerable populations in the United States are:

  • Children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems;
  • Runaway and homeless youth;
  • Unaccompanied children;
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives;
  • Migrant laborers, including undocumented workers and participants in visa programs for temporary workers;
  • Foreign national domestic workers in diplomatic households;
  • Persons with limited English proficiency;
  • Persons with low literacy;
  • Persons with disabilities;
  • LGBTQ individuals.

Examples of vulnerable populations

Runaways, social services, and foster care:

  • In 2016, 1 in 6 endangered runaways were reported as likely sex trafficking victims. Of those runaways, 86% were in the care of social services or in foster care when they ran away
  • 90% of minor female runaways come in contact with a pimp within 48 hours of leaving home
  • Among 913 youth in the juvenile justice system, high ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experience) scores were associated with human trafficking. Sexual abuse was the greatest predictor of later exploitation and human trafficking

Data on Victims

National data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016 revealed:

  • Of the 7,621 cases of human trafficking, 83.9% were female;
  • 64.6% were adults;
  • 27.6% were US citizens;
  • Domestic work (17%) and agriculture (16%) are the top industries for labor trafficking in Florida;
  • Hotel/motel-based (16%) and illicit massage/spa business (7%) are the top industries for sex trafficking

Florida data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016 revealed:

  • 471 (84.7%) calls regarding female victims and 87 (15.6%) calls regarding males.
  • 385 (69%) calls regarding the trafficking of adults and 174 (31%) about minors.
  • 169 (30.4%) calls about US Citizens/LPR and 116 (20.9%) about foreign nationals.

Data from the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking for Florida, regarding tips to the National Human Trafficking Hotline from Florida (2013-2015) revealed:

  • 367 of those calls (32%) were regarding minor victims
  • 83.6% were regarding females,16.4% were male, and not all victims identified their gender.
  • 802 (71%) calls were classified as sex trafficking, 207 (18%) were classified as labor trafficking, and 44 (4%) were classified as both.

Data from the Florida Abuse Hotline, from July 2013 to December 2014, revealed

  • 826 reports regarding the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
  • 170 reports were confirmed
  • 95% of the confirmed cases involved a female victim, 72% of the victims were 15 or older, and 55% were African-American.

Psychological Characteristics of Victims

The following are some of the negative mental health effects of victimization on victims:

  • Grief, self-hatred, feelings of hopelessness and self-blame
  • Post-traumatic stress (commonly called PTSD)
  • Anxiety; mistrust or fear of others
  • Depression; suicidality
  • Phobias which interfere with daily life (for example, fear of being outside, in crowds, or alone)
  • Traumatic bonds with traffickers (e.g. feeling the need to defend the traffickers despite their atrocities)

Physical Health Characteristics of Victims

The following are examples of psychological characteristics that victims commonly experience as a result of human trafficking:

  • Physical injuries such as bruises, broken bones, head wounds;
  • Chronic or persistent conditions (e.g., chronic migraines, hearing loss, cardiovascular or respiratory issues);
  • Malnutrition (in minors, this may stunt growth);
  • Poorly formed or rotting teeth;
  • Insomnia or other sleep-related issues;
  • Evidence of illicit drug use (needle tracks, addiction);
  • Reproductive Sterility;
  • Sexually transmitted diseases/infections, including HIV.

Ways Victims Cope

These coping mechanisms, used consciously or unconsciously by victims, are attempts to minimize the pain and survive the emotional, physical, and psychological trauma:

Facts about Perpetrators

Research on human trafficking has also revealed information about perpetrators of human trafficking.

In 2017, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported the following:

  • From 2004 to 2013, a total of 37,105 suspects were investigated and referred to U.S. attorneys for commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) offenses.
  • Nearly all defendants convicted of CSEC offenses from 2004 to 2013 were sentenced to federal prison (98%).
  • The mean prison sentence imposed on CSEC defendants in 2013 was 11.6 years.
  • Most defendants charged for CSEC offenses from 2004 to 2013 were male (97%), white (82%), U.S. citizens (97%), and had no prior felony convictions (79%).
  • CSEC suspects had a median age of 39 years.
  • Nearly all (95%) defendants in CSEC cases adjudicated in federal court from 2004 to 2013 were convicted, mostly through guilty pleas (91%).
  • Traffickers and victims usually have the same national, ethnic, or cultural background. Making it easier for the trafficker to exploit victims because of a common language and background.

Sponsored by the

The Human Trafficking Project was supported by Award No. VF004 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, Sponsored by the Institute for Family Violence Studies and the State of Florida.