What is Human Trafficking?

According to the National Institute of Justice, human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.

If a minor is involved in commercial sex, proof of force, fraud or coercion is not required.

See Survivors by Hearing Their Stories

Regardless of particular circumstances, we see this pattern play out again and again:

Vulnerability Factor + Method of Manipulation = Exploitation

Vulnerability Factors

Methods of Manipulation

Poverty Family trafficking: Loyalty, obligation
Lack of awareness Person offering to meet a need: Indebted, return the favor
Feeling rejected or unloved Friend: Trust, affection, belonging
Mental health Boyfriend/girlfriend: Trust, love, loyalty
Criminalization or incarceration Job opportunity: Chance to make money
Abuse or neglect
Homelessness and running away

About Dorothy’s House Participants1

93% from Iowa, 39% from the Des Moines Metro
21% are black
71% are white
18% are LGBTQ
21% have an intellectual disability
14% are exiting incarceration
79% have a substance abuse problem; most <1 month sobriety upon entry
Average ACE score measuring childhood trauma: 7 out of 102
100% have a mental health diagnosis, 25% with bipolar and/or borderline personality disorder
Nearly all participants have considered or attempted suicide and/or engaged in self-harm
Many victims experienced torture, were forced to participate in cult/satanic ritual experiences and/or forced to engage in pornography
Food and/or sleep deprivation are often used as a way to manipulate a victim’s behavior
1These statistics reflect women who have participated in the Recovery program at Dorothy’s House. They do not reflect statewide or national statistics.
2An ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other hallmarks of a rough childhood. Higher scores indicate rougher childhoods and higher risk for later health problems — with 10 being the highest score.