Understanding At Risk Populations in Human Trafficking (ACE's, Vulnerable Communities)

Vulnerabilities to Human Trafficking

Victims of human trafficking can be any age, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation. They can be Service members or their family members and/or dependents, or civilians. However, some populations, such as women and girls, may be disproportionately at risk.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that the following groups are especially vulnerable to human trafficking:

  • Individuals who have experienced childhood abuse or neglect
  • Children and youth involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders
  • Survivors of violence
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) individuals
  • Migrant workers
  • Undocumented immigrants
  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • People with disabilities
  • People with low incomes
  • People with a history of substance abuse
  • Communities exposed to intergenerational trauma1

1 From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office on Human Trafficking, accessed October 30, 2021, https://www.acf.hhs.gov/otip/about/what-human-trafficking

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

Another underlying risk factor for human trafficking is child abuse. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children who are victims of human trafficking often have a history of abuse, neglect, and trauma.1 Traffickers exploit these Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs). In one study of 913 juvenile-justice involved boys and girls, ACE composite scores were higher and 6 or more conventional ACEs were prevalent among the youths who had been trafficked.

1 Source of study linking human trafficking and ACEs: NIH National Library of Medicine, “Human Trafficking of Minors and Childhood Adversity in Florida,” Reid, et al.

Source of ACEs chart: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services