The vast majority of victims of trafficking come from backgrounds of poverty. Impoverished women and girls are especially susceptible to traffickers’ schemes of deception because the desperation of their economic situation makes them (or their parents or caretakers) more willing to take risks – so they are more likely to accept a perpetrators’ fraudulent job offer or insincere marriage proposal, to move to another location or migrate to another country, or to believe other deceptive techniques criminals use to entrap victims.
Once trafficked, victims find themselves facing violence as a constant threat. In addition to serial rape, children and forced adults in the commercial sex trade are particularly vulnerable to physical assault from owners, pimps, recruiters and customers. In IJM cases, sex trafficking survivors have described being beaten with sticks, clubs, electrical cords and metal rods; forcibly injected with narcotics; and forced to watch their own children be physically abused. They are at high risk of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted illnesses.
Though sex trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon, it is most pervasive in countries with weak justice systems, where perpetrators know they are unlikely to face any significant consequences for profiting from repeated sexual assault. The good news is that, because the crime is an economic one, traffickers, pimps and others who profit from forced prostitution are particularly sensitive to law enforcement action. When the likelihood of serving serious jail time and paying significant financial damages increases, the potential financial rewards are no longer worth the high risk, and traffickers change their behavior.