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H.E.A.T. Watch – Stop Human Exploitation and Trafficking

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1(888) 373-7888
Alameda County H.E.A.T. Watch Tip Line: 1(510) 208-4959
Office of the District Attorney, Alameda County
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

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Sex Trafficking

Occurs when someone uses force, fraud, or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial sex act. A commercial sex act could be prostitution, pornography, or sexual performance in exchange for any item of value, such as, money, drugs, shelter, food, or clothes.

Polaris identifies the following types of sex trafficking in their “Typology of Modern Slavery” Report:

  1. Escort Services
  2. Illicit Massage, Health, & Beauty
  3. Outdoor Solicitation
  4. Pornography
  5. Personal Sexual Servitude
  6. Remote Interactive Sexual Acts
  7. Bars, Strip Clubs, & Cantinas

1. Escort Services:

Escort Services is a broad term used widely in the commercial sex trade, referring to commercial sex acts that primarily occur at a temporary indoor loca­tion. The operations are often described as “out-call,” where traffickers deliver victims to a buyer’s hotel room or residence for “private parties,” or as “in-call,” where potential buyers cycle in and out of a hotel room where the trafficker has confined the vic­tim for extended stays. These cyclical business oper­ations repeat once the trafficker relocates the survi­vor to another city where the demand for commercial sex is booming. Over the years, there have been fluc­tuations in popular online advertising platforms for commercial sex, but the most prevalent online mar­ketplace is Backpage.com. Though Backpage closed its U.S. Adult Services section in January 2017 due to rising pressure from the U.S. Senate, Backpage has accounted for more than 1,300 cases of trafficking within escort services and remains a driving force in global sexual exploitation.

2. Illicit Massage, Health, & Beauty:

Illicit massage, health, and beauty businesses present a façade of legitimate spa services, concealing that their primary business is the sex and labor trafficking of women trapped in these businesses. Although they appear to be single storefronts, the majority are controlled as part of larger networks – with one to three people owning several businesses at a time. Research suggests there are at least 7,000 storefronts in the U.S., and possibly far more.

3. Outdoor Solicitation:

Outdoor solicitation occurs when traffick­ers force victims to find buyers in an outdoor, public setting. In many cities, this occurs on a particular block or at cross streets known for commercial sex and often referred to as a “track” or “stroll.” In more rural areas, outdoor solicitation frequently takes place at truck or rest stops along major highways.

4. Pornography:

The National Hotline has documented cases of family members, intimate partners, and individual sex traffickers earning profit from distributing a vic­tim’s non-consenting appearance in pornographic material. The related issue of “revenge porn” is also a concern within relationship violence and can be considered high risk for sex trafficking. For cases involving webcams, please refer to Remote Interactive Sexual Acts. This type also includes the production and distribution of child pornography. The National Hotline frequently receives tips via our online reporting tool linking to suspicious web­sites that may contain child pornography. While the hotline records data from these reports, the hotline is unable to investigate such links to verify the legitimacy and therefore forwards all potential child pornography tips to The National Center of Missing and Exploited Children. Please visit the center for more information.

5. Personal Sexual Servitude:

With cases of personal sexual servitude, the lines between trafficker, recruiter, and buyer are blurred and largely depend on how the victim views each perpetrator. Personal sexual servitude takes vari­ous forms, and the payment is not always cash. In addition, the line between ongoing sexual abuse and personal sexual servitude is complex, and dif­ferent survivors may define their experiences dif­ferently. Personal sexual servitude can occur when a woman or girl is permanently sold, often by her family to settle a drug debt, to an individual buyer for the explicit purpose of engaging in periodic sex acts over a long period of time. It can also occur within a commercial non-consenting marriage sit­uation, primarily involving adult foreign national women and their families or U.S. spouses. In some of these forced marriages, the survivors can pos­sess K-1 (fiancé) visas. Some victims are forced to do domestic work. Runaway homeless youth and LGBTQ minors without a third-party facilitator may also be victims of personal sexual servitude when they are coerced to engage in sex on an ongoing basis in order to receive basic needs such as shel­ter, food, and medications.

6. Remote Interactive Sexual Acts:

Remote interactive sexual acts are live com­mercial sex acts simulated through remote contact between the buyer and victim through technologies such as webcams, text-based chats, and phone sex lines. Because of the lack of physical contact between the vic­tim and buyer, traffickers can frame this busi­ness during victim recruitment as a “low-risk” endeavor. However, as with all commercial sex, this business model becomes sex traffick­ing if the victims are compelled to participate under force, fraud, or coercion, or if the victim is under the age of 18.

7. Bars, Strip Clubs, & Cantinas:

Human trafficking in this type fronts as legiti­mate bars, restaurants, or clubs selling food and alcohol while exploiting victims for both sex and labor behind the scenes. Victims are forced to provide customers of the cantina with flirtatious companionship to entice them to purchase high-priced alcoholic beverages that often come with an explicit or implicit agreement for commercial sex acts as well. Polaris has identified several dis­tinct business models within this industry. These include bars and cantinas that are entirely run by organized human trafficking networks. However, at other locations traffickers have agreements with the business owners that allow them to oper­ate prostitution rings out of the bar or cantina in exchange for a portion of the criminal profits. In addition to the cantina-like businesses, many strip clubs and go-go clubs are associated with this type of sex and labor trafficking.

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