Everyone can play a role in identifying victims of human trafficking. Health care and social service providers; law enforcement officials; and ethnic, community, and faith-based organizations may encounter victims through their work. An informed community member could also be a victim’s link to freedom. It is important to be vigilant and to “look beneath the surface” in situations that don’t seem quite right. One chance encounter could be a victim’s best hope for rescue.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage, or involuntary labor. Victims of human trafficking can be young children, teenagers, men and women. They can be U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) or foreign nationals, and they can be found in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Minors (under the age of 18) who are induced to perform commercial sex acts are victims of trafficking, regardless of whether their traffickers used force, fraud, or coercion.
A victim could be a man who does not speak English who is suspiciously injured “on the job” and shows signs of old bruising. A victim could be an abused woman who doesn’t know what city she is in when brought to the emergency room, and who is accompanied by a controlling companion who insists on speaking for her. A victim could be a fearful individual who quietly slips in and out of a local church on Sunday morning, or a child who lives in the neighborhood, yet doesn’t go to school or play outside.
Human trafficking may occur in the following situations:
Victims of human trafficking may exhibit any of the following:
A human trafficking victim may develop a mindset of fear, distrust, denial, and conflicting loyalties. Foreign victims of trafficking are often fearful of being deported or jailed and, therefore, they may distrust authority figures, particularly law enforcement and government officials. Similarly, traffickers may convince sex trafficking victims who are U.S. citizens or LPRs that, if they report their traffickers to the police, the police will jail the victim for prostitution while the traffickers, pimps, or johns will go free. Many victims of both sex and labor trafficking fear that if they escape their servitude and initiate investigations against their trafficker, the trafficker and his/her associates will harm the victims, the victims’ family members, or others.
Being able to recognize the psychological and emotional consequences of human trafficking can also be helpful in identifying victims. Victims often:
While not all victims of trafficking have physical indicators that aid identification, many victims suffer serious health issues, some of which may include the following:
If you think you have come into contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.373.7888. The NHTRC can help you identify and coordinate with local organizations that protect and serve trafficking victims.