Providing services to victims of domestic and sexual violence since 1983
Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery where an individual is a forced laborer such as those forced to perform commercial sexual acts. Traffickers tend to target those who are at a disadvantage because of immigration status, language proficiency, financial hardship, or other socially isolating factors although victims can be any race, gender, nationality, or age.
Listed below are some common indicators of human trafficking:
The victim acts fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous, or paranoid
The victim doesn't speak for themselves
The victim shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse
The victim has few or no personal possessions
The victim cannot freely contact friends or family
The victim does not socialize or attend religious services
The victim works excessively long and/or unusual hours
The victim is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex
The victim has been threated with deportation or law enforcement action
Another individual is in possession of the victim's identification and travel documents
Victims of human trafficking are frequently lured by false promises of a lucrative job, stability, education, or a loving relationship. Victims can be men or women, adults or children, foreign nationals or U.S. citizens. While they share the trait of vulnerability, victims have diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may be documented or undocumented.
As defined under U.S. law, victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:
Children under age 18 induced into commercial sex.
Adults aged 18 or over induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion.
Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion.
While human trafficking spans all demographics, there are some circumstances or vulnerabilities that lead to a higher susceptibility to victimization and human trafficking. Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war or conflict, or social discrimination are frequently targeted by traffickers. Foreign nationals who have paid significant recruitment and travel fees often become highly indebted to traffickers or other intermediaries. Traffickers control and manipulate these individuals by leveraging the non-portability of many work visas as well as the victims’ lack of familiarity with surroundings, laws and rights, language fluency, and cultural understanding.
Victims face many challenges in accessing help. Their traffickers may confiscate their identification documents and money. They may not speak English. They may not know where they are, because they have been moved frequently. They are often not allowed to communicate with family or friends. And they may have trouble trusting others, due to their traffickers’ manipulation and control tactics.
Traffickers lure and ensnare people into forced labor and sex trafficking by manipulating and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Human traffickers recruit, transport, harbor, obtain, and exploit victims – often using force, threats, lies, or other psychological coercion. Traffickers promise a high-paying job, a loving relationship, or new and exciting opportunities. In other cases, they may kidnap victims or use physical violence or substance abuse to control them.
Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, including physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, confiscation of identification and money, isolation from friends and family, and even renaming victims. Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for myriad reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their children’s safety.
Often the traffickers and their victims share the same national, ethnic, or cultural background, allowing the trafficker to better understand and exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims. Traffickers can be lone individuals or extensive criminal networks. Pimps, gangs, family members, labor brokers, employers of domestic servants, small business owners, and large factory owners have all been found guilty of human trafficking. Their common thread is a willingness to exploit other human beings for profit.
Are you or someone you know being trafficked? Is human trafficking happening in your community? Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need.
Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question
Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health
Lacks health care
Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
Has few or no personal possessions
Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
Loss of sense of time
Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. Learn more at www.humantraffickinghotline.org.