4 FAQ’s About Human Trafficking

1. Who are the victims?

  • Most sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are U.S. citizens. Foreign nationals, while also subjected to sex trafficking are brought here primarily for forced labor.
  • Most sex trafficking victims are female, but males are victimized too.
  • Victims can be any race or socio-economic class, however factors such as homelessness, family disfunction, prior abuse history, or poverty create vulnerabilities that lead to disproportionate victimization.
  • Runaways escaping abuse, neglect or rejection. This is especially prevalent amongst youth who are LGBTQ.
  • “Throw away” children- a term used to describe children who are compelled or forced to run away from their homes but, are never reported missing.
  • Children can be trafficked in their own homes, often by family members.
  • Those involved with or who have fallen prey to cults.

2. Who are the Traffickers / Pimps / Perpetrators?

  • Anyone who attains anything of value, be it financial or other, through the sexual exploitation of another
  • Large nationwide gangs and criminal organizations
  • Local street and motorcycle gangs
  • Individuals acting alone with no affiliation to any group
  • Family members
  • Any adult that exchanges something of value for sex with a minor, regardless of whether the money goes directly to the child or to a third party. This is defined in the TVPA as “receipt of persons” and in the case of minors, no third party “pimp” is required. Any perceived “consent” given by the child is irrelevant.
  • All genders and ages: men and women and older teens
  • Peers and friends of the child
  • Online predators
  • Pornographers who use children or adults via force, fraud or coercion

3. Where is exploitation happening?

  • Hotels & Motels
  • Private residences
  • Vacant abandoned houses
  • On the streets
  • Strip clubs
  • Illicit massage parlors
  • Private parties
  • Escort services
  • Truck stops
  • Illegal and legal brothels (brothel are illegal in all U.S. states except some counties in Nevada)
  • Various businesses acting as fronts and where “word of mouth” is used to bring in buyers

4. How big of a problem is this in Kansas City?

Sex trafficking is a supply and demand business. If we want to understand the nature and prevalence of sex trafficking, we should consider the size and nature of demand. Following are a few things that we know about demand in Kansas City: 

  • A 2013 study found that on any given Friday night in Kansas City, 14.5% of adult men (that’s over 106,000 men) were actively responding to online advertisements offering commercial sex acts. 89% of the calls received were from local area codes.
  • In 2009, the FBI in partnership with the Independence Police Department, posted decoy advertisements online offering sexual activities that described the advertised females as “little girls” and “young”. Over 500 phone calls were received within the first 24 hours of posting the ads.   
  • A 2017 study using police data, estimates that at any given time in the Kansas City area, there are approximately 3,500 adult (over the age of 18) victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
  • In December of 2017, the average Backpage.com advertisement in Kansas City generated 1.1 phone calls per minute. 
  • In 2017, a 64 year old man from Ottawa was arrested in a sting. He brought $5,000 to Independence, MO for the purpose of purchasing a 10 year old girl as his personal “sex slave”.
  • Casinos, strip clubs and hotels along the I -70 and I-35 corridors, by the airport, stadiums, convention centers, and Speedway are demand “hot spots”

Alison Phillips is an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City specializing in human trafficking.


Source: Roe-Sepowitz et. al, 2013. Invisible Offenders: A study estimating online sex customers

Source: Morris, M. (2013, August 29). Kansas City ranks second in academic study of men looking for prostitutes online. The Kansas City Star 

Source: Crittleton, A. (2017). Unpublished Research. University of Missouri Kansas City.

Source : Fisher, C (2019, March 20). Ottawa man admits to looking for child sex slave. 13 WIBW. Retrieved from: https://www.wibw.com/content/news/Ottawa-man-admits-to-looking-for-child-sex-slave-507406771.html

Source: Phillips, A.(2017). Commercial sexual exploitation: an analysis of prostitution in Kansas City. University of Missouri Kansas City.