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Human Trafficking Indicators

If this is happening in my community, why haven’t I noticed it? What should I be looking for?

When you learn about human trafficking, these may be the first questions you ask. Many times, this is because people do not know what to look for. It can also be that they are only looking for the few indicators they know about or assume to be true about human trafficking. However, there are many indicators that when added together, can help identify a victim of human trafficking.

Common Indicators

Knowing what human trafficking is and what to look for are foundational to determining if the suspicious activity you observed is a case of human trafficking. While there is not one indicator of human trafficking, as every case may be nuanced, there are several common signs that can help identify situations where someone may be exploited.

Indicators can present as physical, behavioral, or in responses given by the person. For example, a person may not be able to control their movement or speak for themselves. Or they may have cuts and bruises in areas that are normally protected. A labor trafficking victim may be working for little or no pay with unusually long hours.

While none of these alone may be an indicator, collectively and with context, they may be.

Context Matters.

When learning the indicators of human trafficking, it is important to keep in mind that context matters.

The role and interactions you have in a person’s life, where you are located geographically, the tactics traffickers use to control a victim’s own understanding and awareness, can all be factors in why the signs of human trafficking can vary by context. 

Someone being trafficked may present different indicators to different people. For example, indicators to a teacher, neighbor, family members, first responder or social worker, may overlap but also may be different. It’s important to understand that the one or few indicators you see may not be the only ones present.

If you see something, say something.

Anytime you suspect someone may be in danger, always report it. Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) and your local authorities.

It’s important that you’re educated on what to look for so that you can speak up and be a voice for victims of this crime who often can’t speak up for themselves.

Be aware that not all circumstances that appear to be human trafficking necessarily are. At the same time, be vigilant and take note of all suspicious activity around you, and always report this to your local law enforcement. Understand that exploitation and abuse occur in lots of situations in addition to crimes of human trafficking.

It is important to report a tip because what you notice, another person may have noticed something else, and collectively, your tips can help law enforcement build their case.

How can I learn more?

If we don’t know what to look for or where to look, we won’t see this crime to report it and make progress toward ending it. With the Justice U “Learn How to End Human Trafficking” course series, you can continue your learning of knowing what to look for, what are common indicators, examples of why context matters, and how to report it, ensuring that you are equipped to help end human trafficking in your community.