Traffickers, who may be male, female, or transgender, target vulnerable children and lure them into forced labor and prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. In fact, it is known that the vast majority of child victims in the commercial sex industry and in forced labor are recruited and controlled by traffickers.6 Understanding particular recruitment methods and how trafficking occurs in a community will greatly assist school personnel’s abilities to identify potential victims.

Traffickers may systematically target vulnerable children by frequenting locations where children congregate—malls, schools, bus and train stations, and group homes, among other locations. With the advent of social media, traffickers recruit through Facebook and other Internet sites. They also use peers or classmates, who befriend the target and slowly groom the child for the trafficker by bringing the child along to parties and other activities.

Often, traffickers will create a seemingly loving and caring relationship with their victim in order to establish trust, dependence, and allegiance, thus making their child target even more vulnerable. One of the most common variations of this is a romantic relationship. A trafficker often will spend time slowly isolating and convincing a child of his or her love before selling that child for sex.

Young victims also are lured into sexual exploitation and forced labor through psychological manipulation, drugs, and/or violence.


6 Reid, J. A., & Jones, S. (2011). Exploited vulnerability: Legal and psychological perspectives on child sex trafficking victims. Victims & Offenders, 6(2), 207–231.