29 Definitions That Will Improve Your Understanding of Human Trafficking

Posted: August 11, 2015 in Human Trafficking Is...
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When writing articles about human trafficking, many writers use words that are common within the trafficking trade such as “pimp” and “human trafficking.” But how is someone not in the dredges of the hidden underworld of human trafficking supposed to understand?

Below is a compilation of common words used by traffickers, victims, and writers covering human trafficking, labor trafficking, and sex trafficking.

 Human Trafficking


abolitionist: anyone who speaks out for freedom and fights for social justice

aging out: when a child in foster care reaches the age of 18 or finishes high school. The Child Welfare League of America reports that as many as 36% of foster youth who have aged out of the system become homeless, 56% become unemployed, and 27% of male former foster youth become jailed.

coercion: using force or intimidation to obtain compliance

debt bondage– (also known as debt slavery or bonded labor): This a person’s pledge of his/her labor or services as security for the repayment for a debt or other obligation. The services required to repay the debt and the services’ duration may be undefined. Debt bondage can be passed from generation to generation.

exploitation: the act of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from his/her work

facilitator: any business or person allowing a trafficker/pimp to carry out exploitation. These facilitators (e.g., taxi drivers, hotel owners, newspapers where girls are advertised) work in direct and indirect partnership with pimps and enable the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

fraud: wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain

human trafficking:  the buying and selling of humans, using force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor, or commercial sexual exploitation.

modern-day slavery: refers to the institution of slavery that continues to exist today

TIP report / Trafficking In Persons Report: Organized by the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the report describes and ranks the perceived efforts of countries to acknowledge and combat human trafficking.

Labor Trafficking


H-2B visa: This visa program allows U.S. employers to bring in foreign nationals to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs. H-2B workers work in construction, harvest crab meat, operate fair and carnival rides, and perform other seasonal, non-agricultural jobs. Because of lack of legal protection, workers often fall prey to unlawful recruitment and abuse.

labor trafficking:  the use of violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in many different industries such as domestic service, farm and factory work, carnivals, door-to-door sales, and health and beauty services. In 2013, the national trafficking hotline received reports of 929 labor trafficking cases inside the U.S.


Sex Trafficking


bottom b**ch: One girl, among several controlled by a single pimp, appointed by him to supervise the others, report rule violations, and sometimes even help inflict punishment on them. She usually has been with her pimp longer than the other girls have.

branding: a tattoo or carving on a victim that indicates ownership by a trafficker/pimp/gang

brothel / bordello / cathouse / whorehouse:  any premises where prostitution commonly takes place qualifies as a brothel. However, for legal or cultural reasons, establishments sometimes describe themselves as massage parlors, bars, strip clubs, or by some other description.

circuit / track / blade: A set area known for prostitution activity. This can be a local term for the area around a group of strip clubs and pornography stores, or a particular stretch of street. Or it can be a series of cities among which prostituted people are moved (example: the West Coast circuit of San Diego, Las Vegas, Vancouver (British Columbia), and the cities between). The term can also refer to a chain of states, such as the “Minnesota pipeline” by which victims are moved through a series of locations from Minnesota to markets in New York.

commercial sex act: any sex act that includes as exchange of money, food, drugs, shelter, or higher status in a gang, includes prostitution, exotic dancing, stripping, and pornography

CSEC (commercial sexual exploitation of children): a commercial transaction that involves the sexual exploitation of a child, such as prostitution, pornography, and child sex tourism. If the victim is under 18 in the US, there is no need to show force for the act to be considered trafficking.

escort service: An organization, operating chiefly via cell phone and increasingly the Internet,  that sends a victim to a buyer’s location (an “outcall”) or arranges for the buyer to come to a house or apartment (an “in-call”); this may be the workplace of a single woman or actually a small brothel. Some escort services are networked with others and can assemble large numbers of women for parties and conventions. Some serve those with fetishes, such as sex with children or sadomasochism.

grooming / seasoning– the way traffickers “break down” or prepare their victims to have sex with strangers. It involves physical torture, isolation, confiscating the victim’s ID,   psychological manipulation, intimidation, gang rape, sodomy, beating, deprivation of food or sleep, isolation from family, friends, and other sources of support, and threatening of the holding hostage of a victim’s children. Grooming / seasoning is designed to totally break down a victim’s resistance and ensure that he/she will do anything he/she is told.

john / buyer / trick / date: a person buying another for sexual gratification, control, and/or domination. The john fuels the need for sex trafficking. If there were no buyers, there would be no need for sexual exploitation.

kiddie stroll: an area know for the prostitution of minors and young children

lot lizards: derogatory slang for girls  forced to prostitute themselves at truck stops and welcome stations

pimp: a person, usually a man, who solicits customers for a prostitute in return receives all or most of the earnings. Male pimps usually require their prostitutes to refer to them as “Daddy” out of respect while the females are referred to as “Madam.”

safe harbor laws: Safe harbor laws were developed by states to address inconsistencies regarding how children exploited for commercial sex are treated. Under federal law, a child under eighteen that is induced into providing commercial sex is a victim of trafficking and must be treated as such.

sex tourism: travel to another country for the sole purpose of engaging in sex, particularly with prostitutes. Child sex tourism involves traveling to another country with the sole purpose of engaging in sex with a minor.

sex trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an 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

stable / household: a group of victims under the control of a single pimp living in the same household

wifeys/wife-in-law/sister wife: what women and girls under the control of the same pimp call each other

Now that you know these definitions, you can better understand what is behind the terms and broaden your understanding of the hidden meaning in the language of human trafficking.

For even more definitions, check out the links below.
definitions courtesy of Wikipedia, dictionary.com, Polaris Project, B.E.S.T., and sharedhope.org

Click here to sign a petition to fight child sex trafficking in the U.S.


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