Signs a Person may be a Victim of Human Trafficking

woman sitting on the floorTrafficked persons may not be easily visible and may not self identify as victims. They may be unaware of their rights, or may be kept isolated in order to prevent them from seeking help. They may be taught to distrust others, especially law enforcement, and foreign victims may be afraid they will be deported.

Every case is different and there is no single checklist of indicators that prove a person has been trafficked. Nonetheless, the presence of one or more of these signs may indicate a trafficking situation. The trafficked person may:

  • may not speak on their own behalf
  • not have a passport or other ID
  • be unaware of local surroundings even though the person has been in the area for an extended period of time
  • show evidence of control, intimidation or abnormal psychological fear
  • not be able to move or leave a job
  • have fines taken off their pay if they do something wrong
  • not have the right clothes or protective gear for the job, for example steel-toed boots for a construction site
  • incur workplace injuries, but are told not to report the incident to worker’s compensation
  • live and work in the same place, possibly with a number of others, and/or living conditions that are of sub-standard quality
  • show signs of physical abuse and/or malnutrition
  • be frequently accompanied by an individual who may be their trafficker
  • have a sexually transmitted infection and/or pelvic, rectal or urinary trauma
  • use a cell phone to call someone at regular intervals
  • have a tattoo of a gang symbol or name that suggests ownership
  • do something that a person normally wouldn’t do of their own free will

Victims of Human Trafficking are Often Found in the Following Work Environments:

  • massage parlours
  • escort services
  • nightclubs and bars
  • private homes as nannies or servants
  • factories
  • construction sites
  • farming or landscaping
  • fisheries
  • hotel or tourism industries
  • restaurant services

Common Misconceptions about Human Trafficking

  • Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling, which is when one person helps another person enter a country illegally in exchange for money. Smuggled persons take part voluntarily, and once they arrive at their destination, the transaction is usually completed and the smuggled person  is left to go his/her own way.  In contrast, trafficked persons are not free to go their own way once they reach their destination. They are held and exploited by their traffickers through force, coercion or deceit.
  • It is often believed that women working in prostitution, strip clubs and escort agencies choose this work for the money and lifestyle. In reality, many workers in the sex trade are trapped in modern day sex slavery. They are lured into the profession by someone trusted such as a boyfriend, friend or potential employer and become trapped by drug addiction, debt bondage or fear of violence.
  • Trafficking does not necessarily require transportation or border crossing and does not only happen to immigrants or foreign nationals. Victims can be domestic or international residents, and legal or illegal workers.
  • Although poverty is a risk factor because it is often an indicator of vulnerability, human trafficking does not just happen to poor, uneducated people or in poor, undeveloped countries. Persons of high socioeconomic status and education level have been trafficked because they were lured in by someone they trusted or by promises of fame and fortune.
  • Human trafficking does not require physical force, bodily harm or physical restraint. Although violence and confinement are common characteristics, a great deal of the control over the victim can be maintained through psychological manipulation, threats, and deceit.

Need help? Call the National Human Trafficking hotline at 1-833-900-1010 any time, any day of the year