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What is sex trafficking?

It's when someone is forced, coerced or tricked into the underground commercial sex trade against her or his will. It's a form of human trafficking, a general category of modern-day slavery that can include forced labor. In its five-year study of hotline calls, the Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, determined most human trafficking cases involved sex trafficking.

Is it the same as prostitution?

Yes, when the prostitution is forced. Authorities say that not all prostitutes are sex trafficking victims and that some independent sex workers are in the market by choice.

How is sex trafficking related to the 2008 law that some are linking to the influx of unaccompanied children from Central America?

Seen as a way to combat sex trafficking, the 2008 law was a reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The 2008 change provided more protections to children entering the United States alone who were not from Mexico or Canada.

Who traffics in prostitutes?

Typically it's male pimps; male and female recruiters and enforcers; and male transporters.

How do pimps do it?

• They target vulnerable people who have histories of abuse.

• They use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage or other forms of control and manipulation.

• They travel in circuits.

• They operate generally as smalltime, independent dealers, though they are highly networked with one another about police, prostitutes and places to go.

What connections are there to other crimes?

There are no connections to weapons trafficking; some connections to drug trafficking, depending on the city; and growing connections to gang activity, according to a recent national report by the Urban Institute. Some places have established trafficking pipelines that move sex workers from other countries to brothels and massage parlors in the United States.

Who are trafficking victims?

Typically females — though there are male and transgender victims, too. The average age of recruitment is 12 to 14.

Where does sex trafficking occur?

Hotels, residential brothels, strip clubs, massage parlors, truck stops, private parties and residences.


Men, typically, of all backgrounds. Local law enforcement said a typical john's concern at arrest is not the court penalty but whether his wife or co-workers will find out.

Is sex trafficking on the rise locally?

Few reliable numbers help to measure the scope over time. What we know: • Last year, various federal agencies opened 1,768 investigations of human trafficking, up 7 percent from 2012. It is unknown how many victims are in Nebraska or Iowa.

• An FBI Child Exploitation Task Force has rescued more than 3,400 children and convicted more than 1,500 traffickers since 2003.

• A national hotline for human trafficking victims drew more than 72,000 phone calls, emails, text messages and other contacts over a five-year period. Those contacts resulted in 9,298 individual cases of human trafficking. Of those, an estimated 43 were in Iowa and 32 in Nebraska. Last year the hotline fielded 118 calls from Iowa and 110 from Nebraska.

• Omaha police made 137 prostitution-related arrests last year, down from 2012.

• Nine traffickers have been sentenced in federal court in Nebraska since 2012.

• Of the 8,070 victims served in 2013 by the Women's Center for Advancement, 14 said they were trafficked. The WCA believes 30 were. • The Omaha Salvation Army served 31 identified trafficking victims in 2013; 65 more were served by the organization's Wellspring program for people wishing to exit prostitution.

Source: Polaris Project; Urban Institute; the New York Times

Are you a victim of sex trafficking? Do you know someone who is?

In Omaha, call the FBI at 402-493-8688, and press zero.

Or call or text the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888;

text HELP or INFO BeFree (233733).

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