Know the Red Flags
Some indicators raise a red flag that a person may be a victim of human trafficking. Take notice in situations where a person:
- Appears to be under someone else’s control.
- Seems to be under surveillance at all times.
- All or most contacts with family, friends, and professionals are controlled and monitored.
- Does not manage their own money or money is largely controlled by someone else.
- Is not in control of their own identification or travel documents.
- Works excessive hours.
- Is unpaid for their work or paid very little. Live with multiple people in a very cramped space.
- Lives with their employer.
- Has little/no English language skills or knowledge of the local community.
- Appears to have little privacy or are rarely alone.
- Has visible injuries or scars, such as cuts, bruises, or burns.
- May have injuries around the head, face, and mouth from being struck in the head or face. (Sex slaves’ scars tend to be hidden, as on the lower back).
- Has untreated illnesses or infections. Examples: Diabetes, cancer, TB.
- May have general poor health and/or diseases associated with unsanitary living conditions.
- Has STDs, HIV/Aids, pelvic pain/inflammation, rectal trauma, urinary difficulties, abdominal or genital trauma.
- Uses drugs – victims are often given drugs to keep them dependent.
- Exhibits submissive behavior or fearful behavior in the presence of others.
- Exhibits emotional distress such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, phobias, disorientation, self-inflicted injuries or suicide attempts.
- Engages in prostitution or living in a brothel.
- Is sexually exploited in strip clubs, massage parlors, pornography.
- Is branded with a tattoo of a man’s name or “Daddy.”
- Exhibits feelings of helplessness, shame, humiliation, shock, denial or disbelief.
- Is pregnant as a result of rape or prostitution.
- Additionally, if a minor talks about an older boyfriend or sex with an older man/boyfriend.
- Uses words associated with the commercial sex industry.
- Hangs around commercial sex businesses like strip clubs, massage parlors, adult book/video stores.
- Has stunted growth, or poorly formed or rotting teeth.
- Has an unexplained sudden increase in money, clothing or other goods
- Carries a motel key (s)
It is important to talk to potential victims in a safe and confidential environment. If the victim is accompanied by someone who seems to have control over them, discretely attempt to separate the person from the individual accompanying him/her, without arousing suspicion, since this person could be the trafficker.
As needed, enlist the help of a professional who speaks the potential victim’s language and understands his or her culture.
Do not collect more information than you need! In depth interviews with the potential victim should be conducted by mental health professionals, law enforcement professionals or legal experts. Multiple interviews may confuse and/or re-traumatize victims and may put you, as a service provider, at risk of being subpoenaed as a witness.
Anyone under 18 engaging in commercial sex (porn or prostitution) is legally a severe trafficking victim. Force, fraud or coercion does not need to be present as in the case of someone over 18.
This list is adapted from information published by The Salvation Army.
(download print friendly pdf version here)