Human Trafficking Awareness Month: What are the signs?

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

Sex trafficking is profiting from prostitution by providing drugs, using false or misleading statements, withholding or destroying government documents, debt servicing, force, a plan or pattern of coercive conduct, or other acts.

Labor trafficking is compelling or inducing another to engage in labor, or recruiting, enticing, harboring or transporting another by providing drugs, withholding or destroying government documents, debt servicing, force, or a plan or pattern of coercive conduct.

Indicators of Human Trafficking

There is no “one size fits all” for what a victim of human trafficking looks like. Victims could be children, teenagers, and adults of all genders, and could come from cities, suburbs, or rural areas. However, many people are deliberately preyed upon based on their vulnerabilities, and those who are most disadvantaged in our society are often the most common targets. Traffickers use the vulnerabilities of their victims to deceive them by “promising” things the victim may be longing for, such as making up false economic opportunities or providing false emotional support.

A majority of sex trafficking victims are recruited through intimate partnerships or family members, which is why it can be so difficult to detect until it’s too late. Understanding the signs of human trafficking and raising awareness of the issue are the only ways we will be able to stop it.

Some signs to look out for that are commonly associated with youth trafficking are:

  • Are there signs of child abuse of a sexual nature and reason to believe that the child, or parent/guardian of the child or other person(s) facilitating the abuse, was given or promised anything in return for the sexual abuse?
  • Is there reason to believe there are photographs, social media posts, or other recordings of instance(s) of sexual abuse of the child?
  • Has the parent/guardian been a victim of trafficking or is there concern that the parent/guardian has been a victim?
  • Does the child have a history of multiple runaways/AWOLS or episodes of homelessness/couch surfing in the past?
  • Does the child have tattoos that show, imply, or suggest ownership and/or that he or she does not have an explanation for? (e.g. daddy’s girl, property of someone’s name, symbols, etc.)
  • Does the child have or has he or she previously had a significantly older boyfriend or girlfriend who is controlling and/or whom the child appears to be afraid of?
  • Does the child have a history of multiple or chronic sexually transmitted infections, pregnancies/abortions, or report multiple anonymous sexual partners?
  • Does the child have money, a cell phone, hotel keys, or other items that he or she does not have the resources to obtain and cannot account for?
  • Has a gang affiliation been disclosed, reported, or suspected?
  • Is someone else other than the child’s parent or guardian in control of his or her identification or passport?
  • Do you have any other reason to believe the child may be a sex-trafficking victim?

What Can You Do?

If you suspect a youth is involved in a trafficking situation, or discloses they are, there are a number of ways that you can help!

It is important to remember that youth in these situations are vulnerable and the situation can be very tenuous; DO NOT QUESTION THEN ANY FURTHER. Doing so can trigger a runaway situation, put them in danger, trigger major trauma reactions, and interfere with any law enforcement interviews which may be necessary to ensure the youth’s continued safety and exit from the ‘life’ and/or the streets.

  1. Most Important!  If it is an emergency situation, where the safety and welfare of the youth is in imminent jeopardy, contact 911 to report the situation
  2. If the youth resides with the trafficker, contact the NYS Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment to report the situation. This will lead to an investigation by the local Child Protective Services Agency. You can call at: 1-800-342-3720.
  3. If you see warning signs or want more information, you can call CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services Safe Harbour and Street Outreach Case Manager at: 518-469-7897.
  4. Lastly, help us raise awareness! Educate yourself, and then help educate others. You can find more resources for human trafficking here.