Indicators of Trafficking

A victim of trafficking may look like many of the people you interact with every day. Here are a few indicators that a person may be a victim of trafficking:

  • New gifts (i.e. cell phone or jewelry-parents be sure to ask your children where these new items are coming from)
  • Unexplained bruises, injuries, tattoos, or burns
  • Few or no personal possessions
  • Lack of knowledge of their community or whereabouts
  • Not in control of own identification - not allowed to speak for themselves
  • Signs of undernourishment
  • Demeanor: fear, anxiety, depression, submissive, tense, nervous, mood changes often
  • Unpaid or paid very little, not in control of own money
  • Evidence of being controlled
  • Evidence of an inability to move or leave a job
  • Recently brought to this country from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, Canada, Africa or India
  • Lack of passport, immigration or identification documentation

Signs to look for in Students

  • Has unexplained absences from school for a period of time and/or episodes of running away.
  • Exhibits bruises or other physical trauma, withdrawn behaviors, depression or fear
  • Is hungry, malnourished or inappropriately dressed for the weather or surroundings
  • Has sudden changes in behavior, attire or material possessions (expensive items)
  • Makes references to sexual situations beyond age-specific norms
  • Starts hanging around a new crowd (Watch for "recruitment girls" who lure young or less experienced girls to their cliques)
  • Rumors are circulating that the student is "sleeping around"
  • Has a "boyfriend" who is significantly older

Trafficking Techniques

Traffickers use various techniques to keep victims enslaved. Some traffickers keep their victims under lock and key. However, the more frequent practice is to use less obvious techniques including:

  • Debt bondage – financial obligations, honor-bound to satisfy a debt 
  • Isolation from the public – limiting contact with outsiders and making sure that any contact is monitored or superficial in nature 
  • Isolation from family members and members of their ethnic and religious community 
  • Confiscation of passports, visas and/or identification documents 
  • Use or threat of violence toward victims and/or families of victims 
  • The threat of shaming victims by exposing circumstances to family 
  • Telling victims they will be imprisoned or deported for immigration violations if they contact authorities
  • Control of the victims’ money, e.g., holding their money for “safe-keeping” 

The result of such techniques is to instill fear in victims. The victims’ isolation can be further exacerbated if they not speak English and are from countries where law enforcement is corrupt and feared.

 Click here for current statistics on human trafficking.

Access the Spanish translation here.

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