5 Free Documentaries that Teach Us about Sex Trafficking in America

January 4, 2021

sex traf·fick·ing

noun; the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age. 


Sex trafficking in American is a complex crisis that is often inaccurately depicted as young girls in cages or children kidnapped off the street on their way home from school. However, the reality is not what we see on social media or campaigns created around a hashtag. It’s not an action movie or clickbait. Instead, sex trafficking is a crime hidden in plain sight with traffickers utilizing a grooming process to manipulate victims and buyers, who are overwhelmingly male, with little legal ramifications. They make up the illicit supply and demand chain of human trafficking, victims being the commodity caught between the two.

It’s essential as allies in the fight to end sex trafficking to have a realistic, evidence-based understanding of the issue in order to more accurately educate others. We can start by learning from documentaries that depict sex trafficking from a victim-centered lens and share knowledge from experts in the field.

We’ve put together a collection of five must-see documentaries to get you started in learning about sex trafficking in America. All are free to stream, you do not need a subscription service to view them.


Men Can Stop Rape; Stream on Youtube

Nameless is a documentary that addresses child sex trafficking in Washington, DC, and at-large. Through interviews with experts, advocates, and activists, child sex trafficking is reframed as a form of sexual violence that is often made invisible. Child sex trafficking is explored as an issue with deep historical-cultural roots, tackles misperceptions about which populations are most vulnerable to being trafficked, and illuminates systemic gaps in the current treatment of trafficking victims. Featuring 15 interviewees on the frontlines of the issue, Nameless mobilizes viewers to recognize and combat child sex trafficking.


Children For Sale

CNN Freedom Project; Stream on CNN

Jada Pinkett Smith and the CNN Freedom Project reveal sex trafficking, with a focus on youth and young victims, in the heart of America. This documentary aims at getting to the root cause of this heinous crime, exposing a growing billion-dollar industry, through the eyes of victims and those on the frontlines of the fight against modern-day slavery.


Sold In America: Inside Our Nation’s Sex Trade

Noor Tagouri; Stream on Youtube

Throughout Sold in America, the host, Noor Tagouri, hovers over the unsolvable puzzle of human trafficking as if it were a Rubik’s Cube. She asks listeners to leave their preconceived notions behind and stick with her as she explains how, despite her reporting on the sex trade for many years, what she thought she would understand by making this documentary changed again and again along the way. Tagouri hands over the mic to people who believe that sex work in America can never be consensual, to people pushed to the edges of society when they started transitioning genders, to sex workers who love their jobs. There’s an interview with Dennis Hof, the now-deceased owner of a brothel called Moonlite Bunny Ranch, and tense sound bites of one of his female employees sexually harassing Tagouri. The host travels to Kentucky to explore how and why people use sex work to pay for expensive opioid addictions. She tags along with activists who are fighting pending legislation on Capitol Hill. Sold in America doesn’t conclude with answers. But sometimes, the best way to get people talking about something as stigmatized as the sex trade is to simply get it all on the table. Sold in America does just that.

Sold In America is also an eight-episode podcast! Listen to it here.


In Plain Sight

Stream on Youtube

Cox Virginia brings you a surprising documentary taking you inside this horrific epidemic that we found is a lot closer to us than we realize. You will hear not only from local lawmakers and advocates but hear first hand a victim’s chilling story. Human trafficking is affecting not only people in our local neighborhoods but often people we know. Children, college students, and adults often find themselves under someone’s control before they even realize it. In perhaps our most important subject ever, In Plain Sight: Human Trafficking is a project that encompassed over a year and a half and informs you of signs to look for because it can happen to someone you know.


Sex Trafficking In America

PBS Frontline; Stream on PBS Frontline

Sex Trafficking in America tells the unimaginable stories of young women coerced into prostitution – and follows one police unit that’s committed to rooting out sexual exploitation.


Interested in More Documentaries? Check out our other blog posts!

5 Free Documentaries that Teach Us about Labor Trafficking in America

5 Free Documentaries that Teach Us about Human Trafficking Worldwide

If you’ve learned something from this article, we hope you will share it with others. Education and awareness continue to be our best weapon in the fight against human trafficking and you can use your voice and social media for good by sharing what you know. Thank you for joining the fight.

You can also donate to support the advocacy, training, and education we provide at no cost to participants, and we thank you for taking this fight seriously by investing in it.