Human Trafficking Blog

4 Surprising Facts About Human Trafficking (And Why They Matter)

How much do you know about human trafficking in Colorado? Many of the realities of how this human rights crime actually shows up in our local communities can be hard to believe. So we brought together our team and some current partners to share some surprising truths about human trafficking that you might not know — and what it means for survivors of exploitation.


FACT #1: Human trafficking can happen without any movement, transportation, or crossing of borders.


“Human trafficking doesn’t happen when someone crosses a border. It happens when someone in a community is exploited in an extreme way — for sex or labor. We’re talking about a human rights abuse that can occur without someone being taken anywhere. What we’re really looking for is force, fraud, and coercion. Not movement. That reality can reframe this crime for a lot of people who care about ending it.”
Craig Nason Development and Communications Director, LCHT


Why it matters:

Most people think that human trafficking implies some form of travel, but in reality, that is often not the case. Human trafficking is not the same as forced migration or smuggling, which do involve crossing a border. While smuggling is a crime against a country’s borders, human trafficking is a crime against a person. 

Most traffickers use psychological means of control, such as tricking, defrauding, manipulating, or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor. In some scenarios, traffickers might transport victims as a control mechanism to keep them in unfamiliar places (but this is not a required element of the trafficking definition).

What LCHT is doing about it:

Learning the truth about human trafficking is the first step towards ending it. We’re committed to spreading knowledge about the realities of how this crime shows up in Colorado — so that we can inspire individuals and organizations to help end it. Learn more about the most common human trafficking myths and misconceptions and read stories about the crime of human trafficking in Colorado, told through the eyes of survivors themselves.


Watch this video to learn more about why health sector professionals are essential for identifying and addressing the healthcare needs of survivors who show up in their system.

FACT #2: Victims of human trafficking often visit healthcare settings while they’re being trafficked.


“If a patient is being trafficked, we want them to know this is a safe place where they can get comprehensive, non-judgmental care. Anyone may see something, and we want all our staff to be empowered to speak up. We also realize that not all patients are ready to come forward if they are being trafficked; regardless of their reasons, we strive to ensure they get the care they need and deserve while also allowing them autonomy over their choices.”
Michelle Metz RN, Forensic Nurse Program Manager, Denver Health


Why it matters:

Multiple studies have found that up to 88% of human trafficking victims had come into contact with the healthcare system while being trafficked. Healthcare practitioners like nurses, doctors, and other hospital or clinic staff members have a crucial opportunity to recognize and intervene in potential situations of human trafficking. This could be one of the few scenarios when a survivor is not in the same location as their trafficker. 

What LCHT is doing about it:

Over the past three years, we’ve trained more than 5,400 healthcare professionals throughout Colorado on the signs of human trafficking to keep an eye out for — and how to take action. These individuals include first responders, public health departments, and hospital and clinic staff (doctors, nurses, social workers, and hospital security). 

Do you know how human trafficking might intersect with your professional work? Get trained by the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking to learn how to support potential survivors in a compassionate, informed way. If you work in a healthcare setting, check out our anti-trafficking resource page.


Neatly made bed with clean sheets and decorated with two pillows in facts on human trafficking blog post

Photo Credit: Hiroshi Kimura, Unsplash


FACT #3: The #1 resource request from survivors of trafficking who call or text Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline in the last year has been shelter. 


“Most people who contact the Hotline seeking shelter need emergency housing for that same day they are calling or texting in. We have many amazing shelter referral partners that we work with, but it is clear that there is simply not enough supply to meet demand. It is especially important to consider that survivors of human trafficking have experienced trauma and may not feel safe in a homeless shelter, but would prefer to access a safe-house shelter. The lack of accessible safe shelter in Colorado is certainly affecting survivors and their ability to safely exit trafficking situations.”
Katlyn Pryshlak Hotline and Advocacy Manager, LCHT


Why it matters:

In 2022, more than 1,000 individuals called or texted Colorado’s 24/7 Human Trafficking Hotline. Our volunteer Hotline Advocates help connect individuals with our vetted list of 300+ resource providers across the state, including support with food, shelter, job assistance, legal aid, and more. The most common support needed was shelter. 

Housing insecurity and human trafficking are often intersecting, overlapping issues. Individuals experiencing housing insecurity are more vulnerable to being targeted by traffickers, and survivors face a higher risk of housing insecurity post-exploitation. The solution? A stronger net of resource providers in our communities, which has the power to both prevent potential cases of human trafficking and support survivors of this crime. 

What LCHT is doing about it:

Our Hotline is staffed around the clock by volunteers who are trained to support individuals seeking help or reporting a tip with the help they need. It’s one of Colorado’s most important resources when it comes to ending human trafficking and making our communities safer. We’re continuously updating our Resource Directory, identifying existing gaps in services, and working to build up resources to support survivors. 

Do you want to help make this resource possible? Volunteer as a Hotline Advocate to make a life-changing difference for survivors. We’ll teach you everything you need to know before your first shift. 


An assembly worker operating machinery in a factory in facts on human trafficking article


FACT #4: There have only been 21 prosecuted cases of labor trafficking in the last 18 years in Colorado. 


“Over the past 18 years, thousands of people have been identified as having experienced potential or actual labor trafficking here in Colorado. Yet our prosecution numbers at the state level do not remotely reflect this reality. Labor trafficking cases are complex — they often involve legal status considerations, and we don’t have units dedicated to investigating labor trafficking like we do for sex trafficking. As our communities continue to recover from the pandemic and the current recession, we need to dedicate resources to informing people about their wage/labor rights and what resources are available, to help them when they aren’t being paid for the work they’ve done.”
Amanda Finger Executive Director and Co-founder, LCHT


Why it matters:

The vast majority of labor trafficking cases are not reported. Most of the focus on human trafficking is on sex trafficking, while almost no criminal justice is happening on the labor trafficking front. Most people are surprised to learn that there is labor trafficking at all in the United States. Labor trafficking survivors often don’t report because they are afraid of arrest or deportation, don’t understand what has happened to them, or don’t know to whom or how to report. Speaking out could result in survivors being turned over to authorities and having a case mounted against them instead. Many individuals have fled serious circumstances and uprooted their entire lives to move to the United States, only to experience grave human rights abuses. 

What LCHT is doing about it:

We partner with resource providers across the state and connect them to individuals who call our Human Trafficking Hotline and may be experiencing labor trafficking. We also participate in Colorado’s Human Trafficking Council, which brings together government leaders from various levels and the community working to address this crime in Colorado, in an effort to improve comprehensive resources for victims and survivors, assist in the successful prosecution of traffickers, and enhance prevention efforts. 


James wanted to get out of debt and provide his family with a better life. Instead, he was a victim of labor trafficking in the agricultural industry.

As participants in Colorado’s statewide campaign, This is Human Trafficking, we help highlight the realities of labor trafficking and connect victims like James with help through our 24/7 Human Trafficking Hotline. 

Research is a big part of our work at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, and this lack of focus on labor trafficking led to one of key recommendations in the last Colorado Project report. We need to both recognize ongoing efforts in prosecuting sex trafficking cases AND prioritize the investigation and prosecution of labor trafficking cases. Advancing a better understanding of labor trafficking will assist with more effective case and victim identification in forced/coerced drug distribution, farm labor, domestic servitude, and other forced labor crimes. 

Our next research effort, the Colorado Project 2023, will be published this year. Stay tuned to learn how we can better work together to support survivors of labor trafficking, identify and address the root causes of the issue, and end this crime for good. 



Did you learn something new about human trafficking in Colorado? If so, share this blog post with someone who might be interested in finding out more about this crime. 

If you have unanswered questions about human trafficking in your community, feel free to reach out to our team. We’d love to connect with you and share more information.