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Sex Trafficking Header

Sex Trafficking

What is sex trafficking?

Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery in which someone coerces or deceives another person into sexual exploitation for profit.

Modern slavery is estimated to cost the UK £33 billion per year. Sex trafficking makes a business out of sexual violence - children and women are disproportionately vulnerable to this brutal crime.

“When there is a high profit margin with little risk, the business of human trafficking thrives.” - Shawn Kohl, Director of IJM’s European Anti-Trafficking Programme

According to the Global Estimates for Modern Slavery, in 2022 as many as 6.3 million people were trapped in situations of forced sexual exploitation; 1.7 million of those were children. Nearly 4 out of 5 of those cases were women and girls.

Mara’s nightmare began when she was trafficked from her home in Romania by someone she thought was her boyfriend.

Instead of building a future with a man who cared about her, Mara was trafficked across the UK and sexually exploited.

After seven months of horrific abuse, Mara managed to escape. The perpetrators tried to flee but thankfully the police caught them.

Thanks to your support, IJM has walked with Mara for over a year. With the support of IJM lawyers and social workers, Mara testified in court multiple times and - just recently - saw the fourth conviction of the man who recruited her.

Justice for Mara doesn’t just change her life. It protects more women from ever experiencing exploitation and abuse.

How does IJM stop sex trafficking?

IJM works with local authorities to combat sex trafficking, child trafficking, labour trafficking, cross-border trafficking and online sexual exploitation of children.

We’re working with authorities to bring victims of trafficking to safety, provide trauma-informed care to survivors, bring traffickers to justice and enable systemic change so that people are not abused in the first place.

Together, we're building a movement that is already seeing powerful results.

With authorities, we’ve seen trafficking decrease by up to 86% in places where we’ve worked.

Where does IJM work to combat sex trafficking?

Together, we’re working to stop sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation around the world, including in the UK and Europe, Kenya, South Asia and the Philippines.

Spotlight on IJM's work in Europe and the UK

In 2019, IJM launched its programme to combat cross-border trafficking between the UK and across Europe.

The UK is one of the main destinations for trafficking people from Romania. IJM works with police and partners in the UK, Romania, Germany, the Netherlands, and most recently Bulgaria to bring victims to safety and support survivors as they heal and pursue justice.

Together, we’ve supported 126 survivors of trafficking – the majority in the UK – and convicted 40 traffickers.

“What makes us feel hopeful is the willingness of the UK authorities to engage and to improve cross-border cooperation. They show a lot of trust in IJM.” -  IJM Social Services and Criminal Justice Liaison Officer.

IJM is working alongside government, police and communities in the UK, Romania and across Europe to stop cross-border trafficking.

Recent stories of impact

Trafficked to the UK: Samara’s story
Traffickers are targeting young, vulnerable women like Samara* with believable offers of a better life. Give now to stop sex trafficking in the UK.
Young mum trafficked to the UK for sexual exploitation
May 2024 A young woman from Romania narrowly avoided sexual exploitation in the UK, after she was trafficked to Northern Ireland. Wanting to build a ...


When you give to IJM, you are helping support IJM's global teams to combat trafficking, slavery and violence against people in poverty.

Understand more about Sex Trafficking

How does sex trafficking happen?

The vast majority of victims of sex trafficking come from backgrounds of poverty. Difficult economic situations make women or girls (or their parents or guardians) more likely to accept job offers or marriage proposals that turn out to be fake, or to migrate to another country.

Before the internet, customers had to physically go to a brothel or commercial establishment for sexual exploitation. Now, with the rise of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children, sex offenders and abusers can exploit children on the other side of the world without even leaving their bedroom.

Once trafficked, victims find themselves facing brutal violence. Children and adults forced into commercial sexual exploitation are particularly vulnerable to physical assault from traffickers and abusers.

Though sex trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon, it is most pervasive in countries where perpetrators know they are unlikely to face any significant consequences.

When the likelihood of serving serious prison time and paying significant financial damages increases, the potential financial rewards are no longer worth the high risk, and traffickers change their behaviour.

How does IJM stop trafficking?



Together with professional law enforcement, we help identify children and adults forced into commercial sexual exploitation, and support police operations to bring them to safety.


We partner with local authorities to help build strong cases against traffickers, sex offenders and other perpetrators and support their prosecution.


We create individual treatment plans for each survivor, partner with excellent local aftercare homes, provide trauma-informed counselling and support access to school and vocational opportunities.


We provide training and mentoring to law enforcement, judges, prosecutors and other professionals, and advocate for improvements to justice systems that will ensure cases are heard and survivors are protected.

You Can Help Send Rescue Today.

When you give a gift today, you’ll be fighting slavery, violence, and injustice across the globe. Together, we can end slavery and violence in our lifetime.

You can make the most impact as a Freedom Partner today.

Your generous monthly support will help send rescue to vulnerable children and families at a moment’s notice, stand with them as they rebuild their lives in freedom and have perpetrators held accountable.


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