Know the Story Not the Signs

Learn the Real Story of Human Trafficking

For the past two decades, the anti trafficking field has enlisted the public in the fight against human trafficking by asking people to notice and report general “indicators” or “signs” that a person is in a trafficking situation. Now, with the help of survivors, advocates are beginning to understand more about how trafficking really works –  why signs and indicators, without context, are not meaningful indicators of trafficking. The truth is, there are unlikely to be visible “signs” that trafficking is happening – unless you know something else about the situation – unless you know the story. That’s why we are asking people to learn the real story of human trafficking.


Recognizing Human Trafficking

Help get the word out that it is important to do more than “see something say something.” Download and share graphics and key messages with people in your networks and ask them to pass it along to people in theirs, so everyone can learn the real story of human trafficking.

Social Media Share Graphics

Key Messages

  • For many years, the anti-trafficking field focused on the public’s role in fighting trafficking by noticing and reporting general “indicators” or visual/noticeable behavioral “signs” that a person is in a trafficking situation. As the field has developed a more sophisticated understanding of the crime, it is now accepted that without some context, these “signs” are not meaningful identifiers of trafficking.
  • Reliance on signs without context often leads to biased assumptions – such as assumptions that something is a trafficking situation based on race.
  • Instead of recognizing the signs then, it is important to understand the real story of trafficking.
  • “It can happen to anyone,” is technically true, but the reality is that some people are far more vulnerable to trafficking than others. People at higher risk of being trafficked include people living with addictions, recent immigrants, people facing poverty, and people with a history of trauma and abuse. 
  • You are in the best position to support a trafficking victim or prevent someone from becoming a trafficking victim if you know something about that person’s situation. For example, medical professionals actually interact with a potential victim, teachers notice things about their students, and customers wind up in conversation with cleaning crews or landscapers.


#KnowTheStory, #EndHumanTrafficking, #HumanTrafficking, #PolarisProject, #FreedomHappensNow

Need help? Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.