What counts as trafficking?


I’m just getting really deep in my head about it.
It's probably something to resolve with the help of your therapist at some point - defining in your own mind what happened to you. I think there's a lot of value in that process.

At the same time, I've also found myself get bogged down by terms and definitions in the past, and it can easily become overwhelming and unhelpful. And I think a big part of that is the tendency for our ptsd brains to quickly leap to distorted conclusions, like: if it wasn't 'trafficking', then it wasn't that bad.

Typically, 'trafficking' involves the movement of something - people, guns, drugs - primarily (but not always) for commercial gain.


It just seems like trafficking has a more vague definition than rape does and then I don’t know. I’m just getting really deep in my head about it.
Think… arms trafficking, drug trafficking, trafficking in stolen art. Remove people being trafficked and look at objects (although, that’s the thing about trafficking people, as opposed to smuggling people. We traffick merchandise).

At the buyer level? Weapons, drugs, art… are “simply” bought/sold/exchanged/traded. How did those things GET to the buyer? Unless they were made right then and there, they were trafficked.

If it were a LEGAL transaction? They wouldn’t be trafficked. They’d be shipped/distributed/imported/exported.

Trafficking involves a network of people that connect buyers & sellers. Brokers, security, transport, etc.

Jumping back to people for a moment

The INTERNET? Has made sex trafficking take on whole new dimensions, as instead of shipping the product? (IE the person) Buyers come TO the person. It’s still trafficking. It’s just reverse. This has existed to some degree for hundreds of years. But the internet has exploded it.

Pedophile rings? Are usually eyeballs deep in trafficked kids, as the kids are bought/sold/traded like baseball cards. But not always. My former in-laws, for example, keep it -nearly- all in the family. Why nearly? Because foster care & kinship care. So some kids are trafficked in, courtesy of the broke as f*ck court system… but most are homegrown.

Depending on the LAWS in your area, even trading amongst family members who live next door can be considered trafficking in some areas, whilst crossing state lines and international borders is not considered trafficking if there is a blood relation involved at one or both ends.

So there’s the concept itself; the illegal network connecting buyers & sellers… and there’s points of law, which depend purely on if/when/where someone is arrested.


Might depend on legal definitions on where you are in the world (if legal definitions is what you want to go by).

In the UK child trafficking for sexual exploitation or criminal exploitation has a particular legal definition. Also the term 'modern slavery' (for which you do not need to be trafficked). Which is also a legal definition. In the UK certain things will kick in in terms of the police, protection orders, prevention orders, support etc, if people are deemed to legally meet those definitions.

I, personally, have a problem with some of the legal definitions. For example, legally in the UK, I would not have been considered to be sexually exploited but rather sexually abused. This is because for sexual exploitation, in the UK, I would have had to received gifts/money. But for me, the social context of some of the abuse was exploitation. I.e. a nightclub targeting underage children to sexually exploit.

So maybe think about what definition works for you? And the reasoning/meaning behind that for you?

Warrior Chicken

Fully on point @grief and @Friday
The legalities en-situ where a person is are very much involved in a determination of what, why, who in relation to act, means, purpose. Those are all very well connected, and depending where the offence occurred it may have elements that include or exclude it from the criteria that make it illegal.

This is the area of my work currently, and it’s pretty damn complex no matter what angle you hit it at. But it’s gotta be zeroed down to progress to that next investigational level.

The US holds the world to account for trafficking in persons with its annual reports (check those reports out via Google search - Trafficking in Persons reports will yield results) No other country can enact sanctions for failing to comply or meet specific criteria. That’s good! But sanctions don’t fix the problem (cue other discussion here)

But….depending on where you are, how human trafficking is viewed legally will affect how you may need to interpret it. I don’t know where you are….but looking at specific legislature on human trafficking where you are may help to clarify things…..I hope.

Specific to your concerns…where I am, movement is not a necessary requirement to prove the offence. You could be held in one location and trafficked. It’s one of many features - transport, harbour, transfer, transportation, exercising control, direction or influence over a persons movement (and that could be for the person to remain in a static location).

If it’s about putting a name to what happened to you, understanding it, or defining that it did not happen to you, that’s key. Education is vital to healing. But if it becomes all consuming then there needs to be a question why….what is it about this that makes me want to put life on hold to dissect it?

I hope you can find relief and if I can share more info when I’m in a better spot to access my resources, I will.


So then does a gang rape count as trafficking or is that it’s own thing? Because that’s essentially a non consensual orgy.
What @joeylittle said.

Gang rape is it’s own thing. Which is not a non-consensual orgy.

Both rape & gang rape can happen AT an orgy, which doesn’t make it any less rape or gang rape, just because everyone ELSE is having consensual sex. Just like rape & gang rape can happen at any other event (birthday, football game, grocery shopping, combat, etc.). If someone is raped or gang raped at a football game? That doesn’t make it a non-consensual football game.


The reason I brought up the orgy/gang rape stuff is just me trying to define in my head what encompasses multiple people non consensually if it doesn’t fall in trafficking. Because like I mentioned, I don’t know whether money factored. It was different then that. It was like going to your neighbors house for a barbecue (or a swingers party?) and getting extra for it from that neighbors kid. I don’t know how to define it and that bothers me.


what encompasses multiple people non consensually if it doesn’t fall in trafficking.
repeated incidents of child sexual assault.
familial child sexual exploitation, including rape and assault
Gang rape, if two or more people were operating in tandem/rape focused on a single individual
I'm sure there are others....

It's often hard to find the right phrase for the things that have happened. The umbrella term that can encompass all of it - that's so hard to pin down, especially when there are differences between legal language and what we might call moral (or ethical, or colloquial) understanding.

I've seen many many people on this site go through this process...from that perspective (and from my own process), I believe it's necessary to start with identifying the individual elements of the experience/the event. AKA, call it what it is.

Give yourself permission to practice naming things from the center of the event, outward.
From what you've said, it seems like the core of it is, you were raped, and you were a child.
I was violently assaulted physically and sexually
The sexual assault was: rape, gang rape, (I'd list more here, but not necessary for this post)
The physical assault was: (I'd list that here but it doesn't seem necessary for this post)
It was photographed and videoed
This was done to me by 9 individuals in two groups over the span of a week
I was driven to where it happened, and I was chained up there for the duration

My point is: assault will (almost always) be made up of multiple elements. It's helpful, when you're trying to come to terms with them, to let each of them be named.

Eventually, you'll come to understand how it 'fits' within a broader concept. But you'll get there organically.

And, it leaves you free to call things what they are, which (IMO) is an important part of reckoning with the events.


Gang rape?
Can be "just" gang rape - but what's the context? (not minimizing gang rape -- clarifying how it fits into trafficking)
Simplest defintion of trafficking...

Unwilling participant
Sold for the benefit of others. Can be "paid for" with money, drugs or entertainment value
Used for sex and other abuses
Location is less important than intent. Totally possible to be trafficked but never leave one place

Overthinking it is looking for a reason it doesn't fit
But you have to defend it NOT applying then it probably does