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Bars & Clubs


Victims of both sex and labor trafficking may be found in bars and clubs in the United States.

Bars or clubs may be open to the public, sell food and drinks, and offer music and dancing. In situations of sex trafficking, a victim may be forced to provide commercial sex to the club patrons by a trafficker or employer, in addition to his or her work as a dancer or hostess. 

Scroll down to read more in the overview below.

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Who are the Facilitators?

Facilitators of sex trafficking in clubs and bars include other staff in the business that employ methods of control over the victims or set up arrangements for commercial sex with customers, vendors who may knowingly or unknowingly provide space, services or products for the business to maintain the front of a legitimate business, licensing or inspection personnel who are aware of the illegal commercial sex aspect of the business, and sources of advertising for business, such as online websites.

Who are the victims?

Victims may be U.S. citizens, undocumented immigrants, or foreign nationals with tourist, summer work, or entertainment group visas. Though the victims tend to be adult women, some of these networks may also exploit minors.

Victim Vulnerabilities

Human trafficking spans all victim demographics and the vulnerabilities traffickers exploit are unique and specific to each victim (e.g. a developmental disorder, past child abuse, cultural beliefs). However, the NHTRC sees recurring vulnerabilities among sex trafficking victims in bars and clubs. Some examples of these include (and are not limited by):

Immigration Status: Many hostess bars and strip clubs cater to customer bases from specific cultural backgrounds and recruit victims from the same cultures (e.g. Asian hostess bars). For these populations, traffickers often use the threat of deportation as well as document confiscation to maintain control of foreign national victims. Some victims enter the U.S. with a fraudulent visa procured through organized crime or a recruiter, leaving them particularly vulnerable to threats of deportation and unlikely to seek help from the police. Additionally, traffickers prey on immigrant workers’ unfamiliarity with the language, laws and customs of the U.S. to further manipulate or exploit them.

Organized Crime: Hostess clubs and strip clubs within specific ethnic networks are often tied to organized crime. Women are frequently told they owe money to the network, and failure to pay will result in harm to them and/or their families. These organized crime networks have a history of demonstrated violence and retaliation that furthers victims’ fear of reporting.

When does it become trafficking?

Stripping, nude dancing, and hostessing become sex trafficking when the employer uses force, fraud, or coercion to compel an adult worker to engage in commercial sex with club patrons. Common means of control include:

Force: Physical or sexual abuse; restrictions on movement and communication with friends and family; constant surveillance; lack of medical treatment or reproductive healthcare.

Fraud: False promises of a different job; misrepresentation of the working conditions, wages, and immigration benefits of the job; altered or fake contracts; non-payment, underpayment or confiscation of wages; visa fraud.

Coercion: Threats of harm to the victim or the victim’s family or friends; threats of deportation confiscation of passports and visas; debt increased through various fees to the club or driving networks.

* An individual under the age of 18 engaged in commercial sex is considered a victim of sex trafficking regardless of the presence of force, fraud or coercion.