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Correlation Between Dating Violence and Human Trafficking

Correlation Between Dating Violence and Human Trafficking

By Ashden Brooke Robinson, undergraduate student: B.S. majoring in Criminal Justice, University of Missouri Saint Louis (UMSL); Gateway Human Trafficking Intern.


Can you imagine the person you date forcing you into human trafficking? Would you feel like the whole relationship was a lie? Did anyone notice the signs? Or did you notice something and choose to ignore them? These are real questions human trafficking survivors have asked themselves and they have been asked by outsiders.

There is a correlation between dating violence and human trafficking. “Approximately 10% of U.S. high school attending youth are physically abused by a dating partner each year.” Some women are forced into sex trafficking by their partners. These women may feel to be loved, they must follow through with their partner’s demands, such as sex exploitation. “Sex trafficking victimization has documented that some girls are enticed into sex work by exploitative partners who initially pretend to be dating partners.” These female’s sense of security has been taken from them.

“Some factors that made girls vulnerable to entering into abusive dating relationships and subsequently to experiences as sex trafficked minors included:

  1. feeling physically unattractive and unimportant

  2. lacking examples of healthy relationships

  3. experiencing sexual abuse that caused subsequent dissociation and emotional debilitation

  4. being flattered by romantic gestures early in an abusive dating relationship and becoming emotionally attached

  5. gaining confidence from dating someone with higher social status

  6. experiencing short-term satisfaction from out-earning other sex workers.

These women do not usually realize they are being human trafficked, they focus more on the positive aspects of the relationship. These women are swooned by dating a superior partner especially if they do not feel they are good enough for their partner as they just want to be accepted and that is where it can become dangerous.

“Findings support the conclusions that one pathway into commercial sexual exploitation for minors is via dating partners, and that some minors are motivated to engage in sex work out of devotion to their dating partners rather than fear of violent retribution.”

These people who engage in human sex trafficking often do it through fear or coercion. These minors contribute mainly because they want to be devoted or accepted by their partner and they want to prove their loyalty. On the other hand, some minors do it out of fear. They are scared of the consequences if they tell someone or deny their partner's request. The abuser may feed off the fear of the minor and threaten to harm themselves, the minor or their family.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teen dating violence (TDV), also called, “dating violence”, is an adverse childhood experience that affects millions of young people in the United States. Dating violence can take place in person, online, or through technology. It is a type of intimate partner violence that can include the following types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.

  • Sexual violence is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act and or sexual touching when the partner does not consent or is unable to consent or refuse. It also includes non-physical sexual behaviors like posting or sharing sexual pictures of a partner without their consent or sexting someone without their consent.

  • Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm a partner mentally or emotionally and exert control over a partner.

  • Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a current or former partner that causes fear or safety concern for an individual victim or someone close to the victim.

Teen dating violence profoundly impacts lifelong health, opportunity, and wellbeing. Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. The good news is violence is preventable, and we can all help young people grow up violence-free.

Teen dating violence is common. Data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019 indicate that among U.S. high school students who reported dating during the 12 months before the survey:

  • About 1 in 12 experienced physical dating violence.

  • About 1 in 12 experienced sexual dating violence.

Some teens are at greater risk than others. Female students experienced higher rates of physical and sexual dating violence than male students. Students who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) or those who were unsure of their gender identity experienced higher rates of physical and sexual dating violence compared to students who identified as heterosexual.



If you believe you may have information about a trafficking situation:

Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888

Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 tot ale reports of potential human trafficking.

Text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733. Message and data rates may apply.

Chat with the National Human Trafficking Hotline via


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