How to help someone who’s being abused and exploited

Human Trafficking

The Department of Homeland Security says traffickers use physical violence, manipulation or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure or coerce people into modern-day slavery.

Human trafficking is a worldwide problem, and that includes right here in the U.S.

They target their victims based on economic hardship, substance abuse, low self-esteem, lack of a social safety net or a psychological disability.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center says victims aren’t always smuggled across international borders, though many find themselves in a foreign country and cannot speak the language. People can also be trafficked in their own hometowns.

The type of trafficking you most typically hear about is forced prostitution, where the victim sexually exploited. But human trafficking is not just sex trafficking; a person can also be forced into working in agriculture, restaurants, domestic service, restaurants, hotels, massage parlors and sweatshops.

Other ways traffickers exploit people is through forced begging, forced criminality and forced organ removal, according to Anti-Slavery International.

Victims may be reluctant to reach out for help because of fear of traffickers or law enforcement or because of language barriers. Sometimes, the trauma inflicted by the traffickers can be so great, those being trafficked don’t believe they need help, DHS says.

For example, some people being trafficked may have cell phones or even be allowed free time to see friends, attend church or go shopping. Psychology experts say traffickers are often master manipulators who groom their victims, gaining their trust through preying on the victim’s vulnerabilities.

This means it’s especially important to look out for the signs of human trafficking. Some of the signs that someone is a trafficking victim include:

  • Appearing disconnected from family, friends and community organizations
  • A sudden or dramatic change in behavior
  • Acting confused or disoriented, appears to be coached on what to say
  • Is fearful, timid or submissive
  • Shows signs of having been denied food, water, sleep or medical care
  • Has bruises in various stages of healing
  • Often in the company of someone who appears to be in control
  • Does not have freedom of movement
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Is living and working in the same place
  • Works excessively long or unusual hours
  • Protects the person who may be hurting them or minimizes abuse

Not all these signs are present in every human trafficking situation, DHS says. These indicators are not necessarily proof of human trafficking, and a lack of one or more of these signs isn’t proof that there is no human trafficking going on.

In fact, victims may not look any different from any other face in a crowd, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Trafficking In Persons.

The Human Trafficking Hotline can help with shelter, transportation, legal serves, mental health and counseling services and more. You can find more local resources by entering your city or ZIP code into this directory.

If you are a trafficking survivor and fear your device use is being monitored, use a computer at a public library to navigate the links above or tell someone you trust to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline for help.

According to DHS, predators often use the internet to gain access to their victims. So as you surf the web, be sure never to share photos that you wouldn’t want to be seen by your family, teachers or a total stranger and set your user profile to private. Do not share personal information on the internet, and do not meet up in person with anyone you met online.

Always know who you’re chatting with online. That person you are talking to may not be the friend you think they are.

If you suspect human trafficking, report it to federal law enforcement at 1-866-347-2423. Do not try to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to your suspicions

You can also call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 to get connected or help connect someone with resources to escape a trafficking situation.