Recognizing Human Trafficking

It’s Not Knowing the Signs – It’s Knowing the Story

Chances are there is going to be nothing visible, nothing that you can see from across the room, or even from up close, that should alert you that a stranger is a victim of human trafficking. That may come as a surprise – especially if you have seen posters or been to trainings that offer “indicators” of trafficking, such as a person looking disheveled, upset or scared.

Beyond the Signs

For many years, the anti-trafficking field focused on noticing and reporting these kind of general “indicators” or “signs” in order to help the public understand that trafficking is not some far-way problem in the developing world but rather is happening right here, in the United States, and that they can be part of the solution. That’s still the case.

Paying Attention

But as communities across the United States have grown in their understanding of this diverse and complex crime, we are also learning more about how specific people, from specific vantage points, such as medical professionals and truckers, can help identify and report possible trafficking. We have also learned more about how all of us can help by educating ourselves and paying attention to the people in our lives.

The Back Story

“It can happen to anyone,” and “it’s happening in your backyard,” are common in the anti-human trafficking field. But it’s more complicated than that.

Fairy Tales and Tall Tales

Stories become weapons in the hands of human traffickers – be they romantic fantasies or tall tales about jobs that sound too good to be true.

How the Story Goes

Keeping victims isolated – sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally – is a key method of control in most labor trafficking situations.

Life Stories

Anyone selling sex who is under 18 is legally a trafficking victim. There are a number of racial myths and stereotypes associated with sex trafficking.

What Are You Seeing?

Context is key to being able to help understand if what you are seeing is sex or labor trafficking – or something else entirely. People who work in certain industries, for example, may be more likely to spot signs of trafficking that are specific to the way that industry operates. Below are resources specific to either the type of trafficking or to how trafficking situations may intersect with certain kinds of systems and industries.  The U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline does not report to law enforcement in situations involving adults without permission from the person contacting the Trafficking Hotline.

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