- Understand the different forms of trafficking: labor or sex trafficking
- Visible Indicators of Trafficking
- Understand the profile of a trafficked person
- Health Characteristics of a Trafficked Person
- Signs that a person is being held as a slave
- Questions to ask if you suspect you are in the presence of a trafficking victim
Different forms of trafficking
Victims of sex trafficking are often found in the streets or working in establishments that offer commercial sex acts, i.e. brothels, strip clubs, pornography production houses. Such establishments may operate under the guise of:
- Massage parlors
- Escort services
- Adult bookstores
- Modeling studios
- Bars/strip clubs
People forced into indentured servitude can be found in:
- Sweatshops (where abusive labor standards are present)
- Commercial agricultural situations (fields, processing plants, cannery)
- Domestic situations (maids, nannies)
- Construction sites (particularly if public access is denied)
- Restaurant and custodial work.
How Do People Get Trapped Into Sex or Labor Trafficking?
No one volunteers to be exploited. Traffickers frequently recruit people through fraudulent advertisements promising legitimate jobs as hostesses, domestics, or work in the agricultural industry. Trafficking victims of all kinds come from rural, suburban, and urban settings.
There are signs when commercial establishments are holding people against their will.
Visible Indicators of Trafficking
Visible Indicators May Include:
Heavy security at the commercial establishment including barred windows, locked doors, isolated location, electronic surveillance.
Women are never seen leaving the premises unless escorted.
Victims live at the same premises as the brothel or work site or are driven between quarters and “work” by a guard. For labor trafficking, victims are often prohibited from leaving the work site, which may look like a guarded compound from the outside.
Victims are kept under surveillance when taken to a doctor, hospital or clinic for treatment; trafficker may act as a translator.
High foot traffic especially for brothels where there may be trafficked women indicated often by a stream of men arriving and leaving the premises.
Trafficking victims are kept in bondage through a combination of fear, intimidation, abuse, and psychological controls. While each victim will have a different experience, they share common threads that may signify a life of indentured servitude.
Trafficking victims live a life marked by abuse, betrayal of their basic human rights, and control under their trafficker. The following indicators in and of themselves may not be enough to meet the legal standard for trafficking, but they indicate that a victim is controlled by someone else and, accordingly, the situation should be further investigated.
Profile of a Trafficked Person
What Is the Profile of a Trafficking Victim?
Most trafficking victims will not readily volunteer information about their status because of fear and abuse they have suffered at the hands of their trafficker. They may also be reluctant to come forward with information from despair, discouragement, and a sense that there are no viable options to escape their situation. Even if pressed, they may not identify themselves as someone held in bondage for fear of retribution to themselves or family members. However, there are indicators that often point to a person held in a slavery condition. They include:
Health Characteristics of a Trafficked Person:
Trafficked individuals may be treated as disposable possessions without much attention given to their mental or physical health. Accordingly, some of the health problems that may be evident in a victim include:
- Malnutrition, dehydration or poor personal hygiene
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Signs of rape or sexual abuse
- Bruising, broken bones, or other signs of untreated medical problems
- Critical illnesses including diabetes, cancer or heart disease
- Post-traumatic stress or psychological disorders
Other Important Signs:
In addition to some of the obvious physical and mental indicators of trafficking, there are other signs that an individual is being controlled by someone else. Red flags should go up for police or aid workers who notice any of the following during an intake. The individual:
- Does not hold his/her own identity or travel documents
- Suffers from verbal or psychological abuse designed to intimidate, degrade and frighten the individual
- Has a trafficker or pimp who controls all the money, victim will have very little or no pocket money
Questions to ask if you suspect you are in the presence of a trafficking victim
- Is the person free to leave the work site?
- Is the person physically, sexually or psychologically abused?
- Does the person have a passport or valid I.D. card and is he/she in possession of such documents?
- What is the pay and conditions of employment?
- Does the person live at home or at/near the work site?
- How did the individual arrive to this destination if the suspected victim is a foreign national?
- Has the person or a family member of this person been threatened?
- Does the person fear that something bad will happen to him or her, or to a family member, if he/she leaves the job?
Anyone can report suspected trafficking cases. If the victim is under 18, U.S. professionals who work in law enforcement, healthcare, social care, mental health, and education are mandated to report such cases. Through a grass-roots community-wide effort and public awareness campaign, more professionals on the front line can readily identify the trafficking victim and have him/her treated accordingly.
Adapated from US State Department
Recognizing the Signs
Common Work and Living Conditions: The Individual(s) in Question
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health
- Lacks health care
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
- Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
- Loss of sense of time
- Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
Some Tips to Taxi Drivers from Survivors
The following were taken from the February 10, 2013 post Human Trafficking: Survivors offer tips to the Dept of Transportation by By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities.
- Watch for victims of any kind of abuse or exploitation. Victims may appear to be young, confused, inexperienced, withdrawn, or afraid of their older (or generally more authoritative) companions. Be aware and report anything suspicious.
- Watch for children or teens who are dressed maturely and traveling alone or with older companions, especially late at night or early morning, in unsafe areas or places known for prostitution, and / or if the child or teen appears to be lost or inexperienced with using taxis.
- If an adult is instructing a child or teen about sex or prostitution practices, including handing the child or teen prophylactics, report it immediately.
- If a man or woman appears to be hiding a child or teenage companion within the taxi (i.e. pushing the child or teen to the floor or below the level of the window), then report it. They may be attempting to hide the child from the police.
- Truck stops and adjacent hotels are huge for trafficking of minors. They have trucks set up on lots for prostitution-type setups; truckers are the main target for clients. Taxi [drivers should be on the lookout] for little girls dressed up in big-girl clothes [who are out] late at night [traveling] to and from hotels… with someone else paying the cab fare. Bus stops- [drivers and other personnel should be on the lookout for] young girls being taken to and from or being directed to go to a stop [for] someone [who] will meet them there…