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November 13, 2023

Know the Signs of Human Trafficking

It's helpful to understand some of the different signs of human trafficking because it's often happening within your community.

There are many different signs that could indicate someone is a potential human trafficking victim. Remember, it’s not always easy for people to identify when they are a victim. Each trafficking situation can be unique, and factors of fear, isolation, guilt, shame, and expert manipulation can make it difficult for a person to realize they are actively being trafficked. People are often trafficked by someone they know which can lead to misplaced loyalty.

These are some general warning signs:

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or of what city he/she is in
  • Appears malnourished or in poor health
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
  • Shows signs of substance abuse or addiction
  • Does not have control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves – someone else does the talking for them
  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in a small living space
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Answers appear to be scripted or rehearsed
  • Under 18 & in prostitution

There are also school-specific warning signs that may indicate a student is a victim of human trafficking. Below are some school-specific signs:

  • Sudden change in attire, behavior, relationships, or possessions (e.g., has expensive items)
  • Misses school on a regular basis and/or has unexplained absences
  • Carrying more than one cell phone
  • Picked up by different people every day after school
  • Falling asleep in class regularly
  • Frequently runs away from home
  • Makes references to frequent travel to other cities or towns
  • Shows signs of drug addiction and/or physical abuse
  • Has coached/rehearsed responses to questions
  • Is uncharacteristically promiscuous and/or makes references to sexual situations that are beyond age-specific norms
  • Has a “boyfriend” or a “girlfriend” who is noticeably older

While it’s helpful to know the warning signs for someone who is in an active trafficking situation, it can also be helpful to understand some signs that someone is attempting to groom a person into trafficking. Students and minors are often targeted for trafficking. Minors should be careful of someone who:

… is older than the minor and is romantically interested in them

… is telling the minor everything they want to hear

… is pulling the minor away from friends or family

… wants the minor to go away with them

… wants to meet the minor where no one else is around

… wants the minor to have sexual conversations or send sexual pictures

… is giving the minor expensive gifts or showing them expensive items & telling them that they can live a similar lifestyle

… is telling the minor they know of a job where they can get rich, but the person is not willing to disclose details about this job 

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