Human trafficking is a complex crime. As such, different organizations, regions, and governments define related terms different. Here are some general definitions to help you understand  human trafficking vocabularly. Please note that this list may not reflect the views of others and should serve as a framework of understanding rather than a rigid definition of each term.

  • Coercion: (a) threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; (b) any scheme, plan or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or, (c) the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process. Examples of traffickers’ tactics: debt bondage, threatening a survivor or their family with physical harm, blackmail (i.e. elicit photos, stigma in certain cultures), psychological trauma, or the "intimate partner" tactic

  • Commercial sex: any sex act in which something of value is given to or received by any person

  • Debt bondage: the status or condition of a debtor arising from a pledge by the debtor of his or her personal services or of those of a person under his or her control as a security for debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined. Debt bondage is a form of forced labor and labor trafficking

  • Force: how the trafficker recruits and maintains control over survivor; while force is commonly portrayed by the media as kidnapping (i.e. movie “Taken”), force can include wide range of tactics, including physical or sexual abuse, food or sleep deprivation, grooming, and emotional trauma.

  • Forced labor: labor in which a person is compelled to do labor against his/her will- forced labor is a 'purpose' or a condition in which a person experiences labor trafficking, but is not necessarily the same thing as "labor trafficking"

  • Fraud: seemingly “voluntary offer” of survivor based on traffickers’ manipulation/false promises/misinformation. Examples: A victim may think they are getting job as cleaner, but instead they are forced to work as a domestic servant, are not paid or underpaid, and are not given educational opportunities promised, etc

  • Human smuggling: the illegal movement of a person across a border, which may or may not be consented by the person being smuggled

  • Involuntary servitude: a condition of servitude induced by means of (a) any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that, if the person did not enter into or continue in such condition, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint; or (b) the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.

  • Trauma-informed care: care that is rooted in a thorough understanding of the neurological, biological, psychological, and social effects of traumaon a person, and recognizes the prevalence of these experiences in people who seek and receive services

  • Victim-centered approach: Approach that seeks to minimize retraumatization of a person within the criminal justice and human services sector, for example: by providing the support of victim advocates, providing survivor-led and survivor-informed care, supporting survivor-led prosecution of a person's trafficker, etc. This approach also puts the needs and values of the victim/survivor at the heart of the approach, rather than using a traditional 'top-down' generalist approach.