Lesson One: Sex Trafficking is Worldwide

Grade Level: 9th - 12th

Timing: 50 Minutes



Sex trafficking is human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.[1] This is a very difficult topic for teachers to raise with their students because of the sensitivities and characteristics of the issue. However, it is essential for the topic to be discussed in classrooms, especially because of youths’ vulnerability to be lured into sex trafficking, which is occurring in varying degrees in every country around the world.

Generation Human Rights has chosen to introduce the topic in three lessons, beginning with a focus on understanding the issue itself, then further exploration through film and photography, and a third lesson about becoming advocates. In this way, the complex and at times emotional topic is brought to students in a supported and scaffolded way. Ending with students taking the roles of human rights defenders around the issue of sex trafficking enables them to feel empowered rather than weakened by the topic.  

Essential Questions

·       What constitutes an action being classified as sex trafficking?   

·       Where do most people think sex trafficking occurs, and is it possible there can be incidents of sex trafficking anywhere?   

·       What are signs of potential sex trafficking threats?

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

·       Articulate the definition of sex trafficking

·       Develop an understanding that sex trafficking is happening on every continent

·       Investigate and discuss personal accounts of sex trafficking, including those of their peers

·       Acknowledge that there is a potential threat of being trafficked regardless of where you live

Common Core Standards

Standards Met:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.1a  Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.3  Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6  Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.9  Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

Subject areas where the topic can be included: History, Social Studies, Current Events, Torture, Mapping



Sex Trafficking: a form of slavery and involuntary servitude resulting in grave human rights violations.

Moldova: a country in Eastern Europe located between Romania to its west and Ukraine to its north, east, and south. Its capital city is Chișinău.


Materials for Instructor

·       Generation Human Rights educational film about Sex Trafficking in Europe with a story from Moldova, with photographs by James Whitlow Delano, interviews by ART WORKS project, and editing by Manifest Media:


·       Telling History Project Sex Trafficking Exhibit by James Whitlow Delano

·       Advocacy Letter Template

·       Narrative Cards


Materials for Students

·       Telling History Project Journal


I. Introduction (7 min.)


Guide students to understand the complex definition and complex issue of sex trafficking.

Entry-point questions can include:

●       What is sex trafficking?

○      Write their definitions on the board and then introduce the accepted definition.

○      Sex trafficking is a form of slavery and involuntary servitude resulting in grave human rights violations. Sex trafficking involves individuals profiting from the sexual exploitation of others and has severe physical and psychological consequences for its victims. (The Advocates for Human Rights, http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/what_is_human_sex_trafficking)


●      How can someone be ‘trafficked’?

○      Record student answers and then let them know that sex trafficking is a $32 billion annual industry. It affects people of all backgrounds; girls, boys, women, and men. Women make up 66% percent of trafficking victims and girls up to 13%. (The Advocates for Human Rights, http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org )


II.  It Can Happen Here (12 min.)

Step One

Explain to students that they are going to read three short narratives of women who have been trafficked and they are to guess what country or what part of the world they live in.

Step Two

After each narrative, write down the guesses. Have student share their guesses.

Step Three

Share with students that all of the narratives are written by trafficked women in the United States. This will immediately end any assumptions that it could not take place in their own community or country and open the discussion that sex trafficking is a global issue.


III. Film: Sex Trafficking by Generation Human Rights (10 min.)

Step One

Show the film.

Step Two

Discussion and Reflection

Entry-point questions can include:

●      How was the narrator of the video trapped into sex trafficking? (She thought she had gotten an au pair job.)

●    How were her captors able to keep her? (They had her documents, etc.)

●    What did she advise other women and girls in her situation to do?

●    Why are women and girls in Moldova susceptible to being sought out by sex traffickers? (Moldova is the poorest country in Europe and finding a job is very difficult.)

●    What are countries like Moldova doing to help prevent women and girls from being trafficked?


IV. Narratives Activity (10-12 min.)

Step One

Have students break out into groups of three and hand each group three narratives.

Step Two

Explain to students that each person will read their narrative out loud to the group. After each narrative is read out loud, the group should take two to three minutes to write down words that describe their feelings in their journals. (They will use these words in an activity in Lesson Two.)


V. Sharing and Reflection (5-7 min.)

Guide students to share their responses to the narratives. Ask one student from each group to read a reflection and then have members of the class stand if they felt or thought something similar. Circulate through the students as time permits in order to share their reflections.


Homework: Students can select from one of the following three assignments:


1. Research a sex trafficking incident in our region. Write a short synopsis of the incident. What event occurred, who responded to it and how, and what are the takeaways from the incident? What has happened to the individuals in the situation?


2. Research two organizations or projects against sex trafficking. How do they raise awareness? Who is the target audience? Do they provide aid to individual women or girls who have been trafficked? Or are they working on a global level?


3.  Research any laws that are in place in order to protect women and girls from being trafficked. When and where did the law originate? Has it had an impact? Cite statistics as evidence of its impact. Are there ways in which the laws should be modified to be more effective? If so, what are they?


[1] (Kara, Siddharth (2009) Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231139618. Retrieved 1/27/19)