In the anti-human trafficking field, it’s common to hear phrases like, “human trafficking can happen to anyone,” or “it’s happening in our backyard.” But while these statements are technically true, they don’t capture who the majority of trafficking victims are: people stuck in vulnerable situations.
According to Polaris, vulnerable situations include:
- an unstable living situation
- poverty or economic need
- a history of domestic violence
- a history of sexual abuse
- having a caregiver or family member who has a substance abuse issue
- having an addiction to drugs or alcohol
- being a runaway or involved in the juvenile justice or foster care system
- being an undocumented immigrant
These situations are often complicated, messy, and may be difficult to spot. But as Polaris reminds us—”it’s not knowing the signs, it’s knowing the story” that matters.
Knowing someone’s story means knowing where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re heading. It means knowing people, not just picking up on non-contextual clues. This often takes more time and effort than assessing someone based on indicators, but it can prove more effective in the long run. If you want to fight human trafficking well, get to know people—especially those that might be in vulnerable situations.