What Is Sex Trafficking?

Sex trafficking, also referred to as human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, domestic sex trafficking, sex work, the “life,” dating, and prostitution, is the exchange of sex or a sex act (exotic dancing/stripping, pornography, web camming, nude massage, etc.) for a valuable (such as money, protection, shelter, or food). The 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act states that it is “illegal to recruit, entice, obtain, provide, solicit, patronize, move, or harbor a person or to benefit from such activities knowing that the person will be caused to engage in commercial sex acts where the person is under 18 or where force, fraud, or coercion exists.”

Because traffickers are predators, they seek out individuals who are already vulnerable, including children, homeless youths and runaways, individuals who are marginalized (persons of color, those identifying as LGBTQ+, those experiencing poverty, etc.), and those who have a prior history of sexual abuse/trauma.

Because of the very nature of sex trafficking, it is nearly impossible to present accurate statistics on how many people are currently trapped in the commercial sex trade. However, the US Institute Against Human Trafficking estimates that the number could be close to one million.1 In 2001, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that anywhere from 100,000 to almost 300,000 children are victims of sexual exploitation annually.2

And the problem is only getting worse.

Would you like information on how to get involved in combatting human trafficking in Tacoma, Pierce County and beyond? Follow this link to find out how.

Are you or is someone you know involved in the sex trade? Then please follow this link to find out more about what help is available.

About the Sex Trafficking Response & Awareness Program of Washington

Agency Mission: Rebuilding Hope! Sexual Assault Center for Pierce County offers support toward healing through advocacy and therapy for those affected by sexual assault and abuse. Through education and collaboration, Rebuilding Hope improves the community’s response to sexual assault and abuse victims and challenges the behaviors and beliefs that promote sexual violence.

Program Philosophy: STRAPWA encompasses the goal of empowering the client toward the process of healing through acknowledgment of the client’s dignity and respect of their decisions.

In 2013, the City of Tacoma found that Pierce County is an area where there is extensive sex trafficking, though largely underreported. STRAPWA was first called The Yes To Hope! Program which started in July 2015. We started with one full time community case manager to help serve commercially sexual exploited (CSE) children, youth, and adults. The Yes To Hope! Program’s name changed to the Sex Trafficking Response and Awareness Program of WA (STRAPWA) in November 2017. We have since grown from one full time case manager to four full time case managers who staff our Drop In Center. Since, our program also provides professional training and collaboration with other community professionals. We changed the name to enhance our program towards state and city county professionals.

  1. US Institute Against Human Trafficking (2017). The Problem: Human trafficking in the United States. Retrieved from http://usiaht.org/the-problem/ on January 27, 2017.
  2. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (2015). Annual Report.