Know the signs of human trafficking

Signs of a victim

Just as most child sexual abuse is inflicted by someone a child knows, most people are trafficked by someone they know rather than by complete strangers. Individuals may be trafficked by their peers, older friends, family acquaintances, parents, siblings, or other family members. Trafficking victims may exhibit one or more of the following signs:

  • "Branding" - marks, such as tattoos, often placed on the neck, arm, collarbone, or similar area
  • Physical signs of abuse
  • Working strange hours, particularly late at nigh or very early in the morning
  • Signs of exhaustion - People who are trafficked may be kept awake at all hours of the night
  • New look - Traffickers may purchase haircuts and color, manicures, and/or new clothes to alter the appearance or provide incentives for the victims
  • No control of personal assets
  • Frequent absences from work or school
  • Spending significant time online and/or on their phone to be in constant communication with their traffickers or clients
  • Uses language associated with "the game"
  • Has a controlling significant other
  • Has a much older significant other
  • Has hotel cards, false IDs, cash cards, condoms, multiple phones, scraps of paper with personal information and prices
  • Tells inconsistent stories and explanations

Characteristics of vulnerable youth

Traffickers make it their business to learn how to identify and isolate youth who are vulnerable because those youth will be easier to coerce and manipulate. Students with a history of one or more of the following are particularly susceptible:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Deprivation of basic necessities
  • Separation from family or community
  • Rejection by peers or family
  • Bullying
  • Exposure to violence
  • Low self-esteem
  • Isolation

Particularly Vulnerable Youth

  • Youth in foster care
  • Homeless or runaway youth
  • Those who feel detached or abandoned
  • LGBTQ Youth

the Disguises of a human trafficker

There are five different types of disguises a trafficker will put on or take off in order to groom or influence a potential victim:

  • The pretender

    Someone who pretends to be something he or she is not, like a father, boyfriend, a sister, or a friend.

  • the promiser

    Someone who promises you great things, like an amazing dream job, a great lifestyle, or travel.

  • the provider

    Someone who offers to take care of your needs – for food, clothing, money, or a place to live.

  • the protector

    Someone who uses physical power or intimidation to protect (and also control) you.

  • the punisher

    Someone who used violence and threats to control you.

    *From iEmpathize "The Empower Youth Program."