It’s no secret that family dysfunction leads to many societal problems. Whether it’s addiction, abuse, financial issues, lack of educational support or simply distrustful or demeaning conditions, unhealthy family issues take their toll. One of the roots of human trafficking is unhealthy family situations.

The Urban Institute, through funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, has completed a comprehensive study of human trafficking in seven U.S. cities. A law enforcement official from Washington, D.C. (one of the cities in the study) discusses how broken families contribute to human trafficking:

When they [pimps] start recruiting, especially with young girls, pretty much what they do is go and give the girls an ear … and the girls end up telling them, “I am having this problem at home, my mama is doing this, and my dad is not doing that.” And they will just figure out what is going on with this girl and they will fill that void. At first they might not even approach her with the prostitution or anything like that. They just want to take her and shower her with what she is missing: gifts, attention or whatever. Once he gets her away from her family and it has been some time, he will eventually approach her and be like, “Take care of my man for me.” And he might ease her into it or he will tell her, “Baby, we cannot live here for free. There are bills that need to get paid and everything, you need to start contributing.” Well, of course she does not know how to contribute so he tells her she can do it for a short period of time, we can get this money and then we can go get this big house or whatever and they will go for it.

PBS Newshour recently interviewed Meredith Dank is the lead author of the report and a senior research associate at The Urban Institute.

Read the entire study from The Urban Institute here.


  • Danielle

    Please don’t perpetuate the myth that prostitution is the “world’s oldest profession”. The oldest profession is hunter/gatherer! Prostitution is the oldest oppression of women – a form of the commercial sexual exploitation of women!

    • Elise Hilton

      While prostitution is not the world’s oldest profession, it is a readily-recognized idiom. The purpose here is to shine a light on trafficking. The speaker in the video chose those words; we prefer to talk about human trafficking or slavery.