Through an analysis of the 1,954 sex trafficking cases prosecuted federally from 2000 to 2020, this Article aims to provide insight into how sex traffickers commonly operate in the United States. Part I explains the damaging consequences of misinformation on an effective anti-trafficking response. The Article then details how traffickers within sex trafficking schemes across the country intentionally target individuals with particular vulnerabilities and recruit them for exploitation. Part II outlines the vulnerabilities that sex traffickers commonly target, highlighting that many of the children that traffickers exploit have run away from home, were experiencing homelessness, were part of the foster care system, and/or had a substance dependency. Traffickers also targeted adult victims with similar vulnerabilities, including substance dependencies and those experiencing homelessness. In addition, many adult victims were vulnerable to traffickers due to their lack of legal status in the United States. Part III then analyzes the recruitment tactics of traffickers, emphasizing the ways in which online platforms, pre-existing relationships, and fraudulent job offers are commonly used to recruit and exploit vulnerable victims.
This abstract has been adapted from the authors' introduction.