General Human Trafficking

Is my client’s case trafficking?

Human trafficking is a short hand way of referring to the federal legal definition of “severe form of trafficking in persons” found 22 U.S.C. § 7102(11). This is the primary definition utilized for the purposes of identification and access to remedies afforded by federal law. Most states have mirrored the federal definition, though some state laws diverge quite significantly from the federal definition.

A survivor is a victim of a severe form of trafficking when they were recruited, obtained, provided, transported through force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of sex or labor trafficking. The term “severe” does not focus on the severity of the trafficking circumstances but whether the survivor meets the definition for sex or labor trafficking.

This analysis of the legal definition can be broken further into three parts following the ends-means-process (EMP) model (also known as the action, means, process model): 

  • Ends: What services was the survivor made to do? (involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or sex trafficking
  • Means: What tactics did the trafficker utilize in order the force the survivor into labor or sex trafficking? (force, fraud, or coercion
  • Process: how did the trafficker acquire or meet the survivor? (recruitment, harboring, obtaining, transportation, providing)

The EMP model assists in identifying the facts that would support each of the components of the legal definition. It is important to identify the trafficker(s)’ overarching intent in carrying out each of the actions in the EMP model.

Within the federal legal definition, there are more terms that are further defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act including coercion, abuse of the legal process, commercial sex act, and involuntary servitude, to name a few.  Understanding these legal definitions will also help you to assess whether your client is a victim of severe form of trafficking in persons.

Our “Human Trafficking Defined” e-learning course and accompanying toolkit provides a step-by-step guide on how to do a trafficking analysis. 


Where can I find social services for survivors of human trafficking?

Use these links to find trusted legal and social service providers who are experienced working with survivors of human trafficking: