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Tips for Identifying Human Trafficking

Mass human exploitation exists today, internationally and locally.

This modern day slavery includes human trafficking, which is defined as the recruitment, harboring and transportation of people (including children) using force, fraud, or coercion for labor or commercial sex.

Amidst the roughly 25 types of trafficking, every case is unique. Though widely considered underreported, many human trafficking cases were reported by community members–including the 275 cases in Pennsylvania in 2018. This underscores the importance of both acknowledging the existence of trafficking locally and knowing the signs to help deter exploitation and increase reporting.

Labor trafficking signs:

  • Living in isolation and/or dangerous, overcrowded, or inhumane conditions provided by an employer.

  • Working in isolated and/or dangerous conditions without proper safety gear, training, or breaks and enduring excessive security.

  • Pressure from employers to reluctantly stay in a job, and/or threats of deportation or harm from a boss.

  • Owing money to an employer and/or not being paid.

  • Not having control of their passport or identity documents.

  • Being monitored by another person when talking or interacting with others.

Sex trafficking signs:

  • Wanting to stop selling or trading sex, but feel scared or unable to leave.

  • Living at work or transported by guards between home and work.

  • Having a pimp or manager in the sex trade.

  • Working in an industry where it’s common to be pressured into performing sex acts for money, such as a strip club, illicit cantina, go-go bar, or illicit massage business.

  • Having an older or controlling parent, guardian, romantic partner, or “sponsor” who prohibits or monitors communication and time with others.

  • Anyone under 18 in prostitution, particularly children living with a family member who is abusive or addicted to illicit substances.

Additional red flags:

  • Groups with identical markings or tattoos.

  • Sudden changes in appearance and behavior, including quitting school.

  • Being recruited through false promises.

  • Poor physical health, including anxiety, depression, submissiveness, and paranoia, signs of addiction, abuse and confinement, and diminished hygiene, malnourishment, and/or fatigue.

  • Lack of personal control and possessions, or owing a large debt.

  • Cannot clarify where they live, lose a sense of time, and share scripted, confusing, or inconsistent stories.

  • Protects the abuser and/or minimizes abuse.

While trafficking can happen to anyone, isolating victims is the key to control and certain individuals are more vulnerable–such as those in unstable environments. Traffickers are also skilled manipulators increasingly exploiting technology. So know the signs and, more importantly, take the time to know someone and their story in order to properly provide support.

If you would like training on how to spot the signs and fight modern day slavery, reach out here for personalized workplace or community trainings.

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