Understanding Signs of Human Trafficking
The common misconception when the average person hears about human trafficking is that the victim has been kidnapped and sold into slavery across the world. The visions of young people restrained in the back of a semi tuck or cargo ship may come to mind. The reality of the matter is kidnapping of victims only happens in about 9% of these cases. The sad fact is that most victims are trafficked by someone they know and trusted at one point. Many victims even feel they are doing their trafficker a favor now and then in exchange for a new cell phone, video game, or some other type of prized possession.
Understanding the signs of human trafficking is the first step to helping the victims find their freedom. Many youth who are venerable can be influenced and controlled by savvy individuals they initially see as a trusted adult. Through research, the susceptible victims are targeted and are in over their heads before they know what has happened. Often, these victims feel stuck without any hopes of relief or rescue.
The signs to look for are subtle and for experienced traffickers, sometimes well hidden. A sudden change in appearance or attitude could be a sign of youth hanging out with a new crowd. If you notice youth that have a new friend who is considerably older, this could also be a signal that the relationship may not be healthy. Here is a sample of additional signs to look for:
- Sudden absences from school
- Repeatedly running away
- Abrupt change in attire, behavior, or relationships
- The existence of an older “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
- Being escorted by an older male or female who is not their guardian
- Sudden existence of costly material belongings
- Signs of psychological pressure, such as anxiety, depression,
- An overly submissive attitude
- Tattoos or other branding marks
- Lack of control over their schedule or money
- Unable to possess their own proof of identification
- Signs of physical trauma (like bruises, cuts, burns, or scars)
- Coached or rehearsed responses to questions
If you are a trusted adult and changes are noticed, a few well-placed questions, may help the victim open up a little. Victims may be resistant to questioning but may speak more freely with an open-ended conversation. Can you tell me more about, “the new friend’s name here”? What do you do when you hang out with “new friend”? Why did “new friend” buy you such a nice cell phone? It is not necessary to confirm abuse before calling the Florida Abuse Hotline to report suspicion. Remember, these victims can also be young adults that have been trapped inside a human trafficking ring for years. If abuse is suspected, please call Florida Abuse Hotline (report abuse for children) TEL: 1-800-962-2873 TTY: 1-800-4955-8771 The Florida Abuse Hotline accepts reports 24 hours a day and 7 days a week of known or suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and reports of known or suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Please use the links below to report a child or adult abuse. National Human Trafficking Resource Center 24/7 (for adults). 1 (888) 373-7888
BeFree Textline 24/7 Text HELP to 233733 (BEFREE) Send a text for crisis support, referrals, and more – to get help for victims and survivors of human trafficking or to connect with local services.