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:
- Chronic runaway/homeless youth
- Lying about age/false ID
- Injuries/signs of physical abuse (that they may be reluctant to explain)
- Has untreated illnesses or infections. Examples: Diabetes, cancer, TB.
- Has STDs, HIV/Aids, pelvic pain/inflammation, rectal trauma, urinary difficulties, abdominal or genital trauma.
- Inability or fear of social interaction
- Carries hotel keys/ key cards
- Exhibits emotional distress such as depression, submissiveness, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, phobias, disorientation, self-inflicted injuries or suicide attempts.
- Inconsistencies when describing and recounting events
- Unable or unwilling to give local address or information about parent(s)/guardian
- Presence or fear of another person (often an older male or boyfriend who seems controlling)
- Sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites
- High number of reported sexual partners at a young age
- Talks about an older boyfriend or sex with an older man/boyfriend.
- Uses words associated with the commercial sex industry.
- Has a prepaid cell phone.
- May try to protect trafficker from authorities, have loyalty to trafficker, not identify as a victim.
- Has an unexplained sudden increase in money, clothing or other goods.
- Is frequently truant from school or not enrolled.
- History of abuse and/or trauma (rape, violent crime etc.).
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 is legally a severe trafficking victim. Force, fraud or coercion does not need to be present as in the case of someone over 18.
Find a printable version of this page here: Red Flags for Victim Identification ESTN rev. nov 2013