Who is vulnerable?
Human trafficking can happen to anyone but some people are more vulnerable than others. Significant risk factors include recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the child welfare system and being a runaway or homeless youth. Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency.
Who are the traffickers?
Perpetrators of human trafficking span all racial, ethnic, and gender demographics and are as diverse as survivors. Some use their privilege, wealth, and power as a means of control while others experience the same socio-economic oppression as their victims. They include individuals, business owners, members of a gang or network, parents or family members of victims, intimate partners, owners of farms or restaurants, and powerful corporate executives and government representatives.
How do traffickers control victims?
Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, the most common include physical and emotional abuse and threats, isolation from friends and family, and economic abuse. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for myriad reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their family.
Who are the survivors?
Victims and survivors of human trafficking represent every race and ethnicity but some forms of trafficking are more likely to affect specific ethnic groups.
Since human trafficking is often a crime that is hidden in plain sight, it is important to be aware of its warning signs. Some indications that a person may be a victim of human trafficking include (especially in the case of women and children):
Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse
Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement
Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction
Lacking official identification documents
Appearing destitute/lacking personal possessions
Working excessively long hours
Living at place of employment
Checking into hotels/motels with older males, and referring to those males as boyfriend or “daddy,” which is often street slang for pimp
Poor physical or dental health
Tattoos/ branding on the neck and/or lower back
Untreated sexually transmitted diseases
Small children serving in a family restaurant
Security measures that appear to keep people inside an establishment - barbed wire inside of a fence, bars covering the insides of windows
Not allowing people to go into public alone, or speak for themselves
These warning signs are adapted from information provided by the Polaris Project and its National Human Trafficking Resource Center and Innocents at Risk.