Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions are trafficked worldwide – it can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations.
Warning Signs of Human Trafficking
- Their story is inconsistent or seems memorized like a script
- They’re unwilling or hesitant to answer questions about an injury or illness
- They’re accompanied by an individual who does not let them speak for themselves, refuses to let the person have privacy, or who interprets for them
- There is evidence of controlling or dominating relationships (excessive concerns about pleasing a family member, romantic partner, or employer)
- They show fearful or nervous behavior, avoids eye contact
- They’re resistant to offers of help, possibly even hostile
- They’re unable to provide their address
- They’re not aware of their location, the current date, or time
- They’re not in control of their own money
- They’re not being paid for work or wages are withheld
Certain populations are more vulnerable to human trafficking, such as runaway youth and survivors of abuse. You might see these red flags at work, while getting gas, while traveling, or in one of your child’s friends.
Helping a Victim of Human Trafficking
Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help a person in a trafficking situation is to consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions. You can offer support in the following ways.
Keep yourself safe.
The trafficker might be nearby or watching, so you should be cautious about approaching an individual. If the victim is alone, you may approach the person safely at a time and place that is confidential.
Express concern for their safety.
Ask questions about their working and living conditions, if they have the freedom to move, and access to their travel documents or identification. Let them know that you care about their safety, that they do not deserve to be hurt, and that the abuse is not their fault.
Let them know they are strong, smart, and brave.
A control tactic of abusers is to tear down their victim’s self-esteem.
Take mental notes.
Take mental notes about specifics in the situation: license plate, car make/model, clothes, identifying factors, visible tattoos, etc. Then report the incident to local law enforcement by calling 911.
Respect their choices.
Empowerment is a process. Give them space to make their own decisions.
How Palomar Can Help
We partner with the Dragonfly Home to provide support and assistance to victims of sex and labor trafficking. Together with our partners, we provide:
- Bilingual Services
- Safety Planning
- Crisis Intervention
- Emotional Support
- Protective Order Representation
- Child Support
- Divorce & Custody
- Civil Legal Representation
- Support Groups
- Spiritual Care
- Medical Treatment
Housing & Financial Assistance
- Job Search Assistance
- Emergency Shelter
- Emergency Needs Assistance
- Criminal Prosecution
- Forensic Exams
- VPO Service