Human trafficking is a severe form of exploitation of another person involving force, fraud, or coercion for labor or commercial sexual purposes. Trafficking does not require transportation of a person(s) across state or country borders, and may involve U.S. citizens and/or foreign nationals.

Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.

Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.


People most vulnerable to trafficking situations may include, but are not limited to:

  • Undocumented individuals

  • People involved in the commercial sex industry

  • Minors who are not residing with their legal guardian

  • People experiencing homelessness


Human trafficking Hotline


The following myths and misconceptions about human trafficking are from the National Human Trafficking Hotline:

Reality: The federal definition of human trafficking includes both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Both are protected under the federal trafficking statutes and have been since the TVPA of 2000. Human trafficking within the United States affects victims who are U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, visa holders, and undocumented workers.

Reality: Trafficking does not require transportation. Although transportation may be involved as a control mechanism to keep victims in unfamiliar places, it is not a required element of the trafficking definition. Human trafficking is not synonymous with forced migration or smuggling, which involve border crossing.

Reality: Smuggling is a crime against a country’s borders: human trafficking is a crime against a person. Each are distinct federal crimes in the United States. While smuggling requires illegal border crossing, human trafficking involves commercial sex acts or labor or services that are induced through force, fraud, or coercion, regardless of whether or not transportation occurs.

Reality: Trafficking does not require physical restraint, bodily harm, or physical force. Psychological means of control, such as threats, fraud, or abuse of the legal process, are sufficient elements of the crime. Unlike the previous federal involuntary servitude statutes (U.S.C. 1584), the new federal crimes created by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 were intended to address “subtler forms” of coercion and to broaden previous standards that only considered bodily harm.

Reality: Victims of human trafficking often do not immediately seek help or self-identify as victims of a crime due to a variety of factors, including lack of trust, self-blame, or specific instructions by the traffickers regarding how to behave when talking to law enforcement or social services. It is important to avoid making a snap judgment about who is or who is not a trafficking victim based on first encounters. Trust often takes time to develop. Continued trust-building and patient interviewing is often required to get to the whole story and uncover the full experience of what a victim has gone through.

Reality: Although poverty can be a factor in human trafficking because it is often an indicator of vulnerability, poverty alone is not a single causal factor or universal indicator of a human trafficking victim. Trafficking victims can come from a range of income levels, and many may come from families with higher socioeconomic status.

Reality: The federal definition of human trafficking encompasses both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and the crime can affect men and women, children and adults.

Reality: Trafficking can occur in legal and legitimate business settings as well as underground markets. Human trafficking has been reported in business markets such as restaurants, hotels, and manufacturing plants, as well as underground markets such as commercial sex in residential brothels and street based commercial sex.

Reality: Initial consent to commercial sex or a labor setting prior to acts of force, fraud, or coercion (or if the victim is a minor in a sex trafficking situation) is not relevant to the crime, nor is payment.

Reality: Not all foreign national victims are undocumented. Foreign national trafficked persons can be in the United States through either legal or illegal means. Although some foreign national victims are undocumented, a significant percentage may have legitimate visas for various purposes.

Text COMBAT to 51555 to receive updates on Colorado’s anti-trafficking movement


A TED Talk by our co-founder, Dr. AnnJannette Alejano-Steele, given at TEDxMileHighWOMEN in 2012.

Settings where trafficking has occurred in Colorado*:

  • Debt bondage to recruiter or coyote
  • Involuntary servitude in arranged or forced marriages
  • Migrant and agricultural labor, H-2 programs
  • Construction, hospitality, and hotels
  • Restaurant work
  • Child labor, magazine crews
  • Commercial sex, escort services
  • Exotic dancing
  • Arranged or forced marriages
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)
  • Family members pimping out children for sex

*identified by LCHT’s Colorado Project to Comprehensively Combat Human Trafficking, 2013


  • 93 Investigations

    In 2015, 93 investigations were opened in Colorado (86 domestic minor sex trafficking and 7 foreign national adults trafficked).(1)

  • 12% of National Cases

    These investigations represented roughly 12% of all cases nationally.(1)

  • Ranked 17th

    In 2015, Colorado had the 17th highest call volume in the US according to the national hotline.(2)

1. 2016 Colorado Human Trafficking Council: Data and Research Task Force
2. National Human Trafficking Hotline Website:


It is important to recognize community conditions that can create or intensify vulnerabilities to human trafficking in Colorado.

  • Ranked 16th

    Colorado ranks 16th in the nation for popular tourist destinations.(1)

  • Ranked High in Reported Cases

    Colorado ranks 20th in the nation for reported child abuse(2) and 7th in reported rapes.(3)

  • Large Refugee Population

    Colorado ranks 16th in the nation for largest refugee populations.(4)

  • 4.7% Labor Force

    4.7% of the Colorado labor force is “unauthorized immigrants.”(5)

  • 13% in Poverty

    13% of Coloradans live below the federal poverty line.(6)

2. US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families and Children’s Bureau Child Maltreatment Report 2014
Accessed at:
3. Measure of America, 2016
5. Passel, D’Vera Cohn, and Rohal, Unauthorized Immigrant Totals Rise in 7 States, Fall in 14 (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, November 18, 2014), p. 29
6. Measure of America, 2016


In April 2016, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed HB 16-1224: Treat Trafficking of Children as Child Abuse into law. The legislation marked a key milestone in Colorado’s Anti Trafficking Movement.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper


Anti-trafficking voices across Colorado participating in LCHT’s Mobilize the Movement campaign.


Colorado’s 24/7 human trafficking hotline is managed by the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. Call or text to report tips, request referrals, or get help today.

24/7 Hotline


The Colorado Action Plan 2.0 (2019) recommendations were developed by a diverse group of survivors, practitioners, law enforcement professionals, and advocates from across Colorado after reviewing Colorado Project 2.0 data. Special attention and consideration were given to create trauma-informed and survivor-centered recommendations. The Colorado Action Plan 2.0 celebrates Colorado’s growing anti-trafficking movement, and our collective efforts to comprehensively address human trafficking.

Colorado Action Plan 2.0


The Colorado Human Trafficking Council is a group of leaders from across various levels of government and the community who work to address human trafficking in Colorado. The Council is expected to improve comprehensive services for victims and survivors of human trafficking, to assist in the successful prosecution of human traffickers, and to enhance human trafficking prevention efforts in Colorado.

Colorado Human Trafficking Council


As of 2019, the anti-trafficking movement in Colorado includes 17 formal task forces representing different communities around the state.  The following map was developed as part of LCHT’s Colorado Project to Comprehensively Combat Human Trafficking 2.0 (CP2.0).

Colorado Project Council

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