The causes of human trafficking are numerous, intertwined and complicated. The exact combination of factors may vary in number or degree by community or even by individual. All causes of human trafficking, however, are rooted in one person’s willingness to exploit another person’s weakness(es) for financial gain. Here we examine a few causes:

The search for a better life

Victims of human trafficking may wish to escape poverty or an abusive home. They may fall prey to promises of a job or an improvement in physical or emotional wellbeing. Early in the recruitment process victims may be relocated by their traffickers to other cities or states. This increases a victim’s isolation and dependence.

Devaluation of children or women

While less a cultural phenomenon in the U.S. than other parts of the world, the devaluation of women or children by parents or partners still contributes to victimization in our communities. Children may find themselves in the care of unscrupulous caregivers. Women may be sexually exploited for a partner’s gain. Any instance where the physical or emotional well-being of a child or woman is devalued can lead to victimization.

Substance abuse or mental illness

Human traffickers may exploit a potential victim’s addiction or mental disorder. In both cases, a potential victim is likely not in full control of their mental capacity and therefore prone to an immediate need for money, poor decisions, and falling victim to trickery.

Susceptibility to trafficker’s recruitment tactics

It’s not only mental instability or drug addiction that can heighten a potential victim’s susceptibility to being recruited by a trafficker. Studies have shown that neglect, isolation, sexual abuse, low self-esteem, and even lack of maturation all contribute to a person’s vulnerability. Children who feel isolated from parents or caregivers, LGBTQ youths who feel socially alienated or anyone who feels rejected by family or peers for myriad reasons are many times more likely to be susceptible.