Sex

The Realities of Sex Trafficking

Part 3: What you can do when sex trafficking is suspected.

Posted Feb 19, 2021 | Reviewed by Devon Frye

In part two of this brief series, I discussed the profile of sex trafficking victims. In this final segment, I focus on what you can do when sex trafficking is suspected.

The Polaris Project identified 8,248 situations of sex trafficking in the United States with 14,597 individual victims and survivors of sex trafficking in 2019. An additional 505 situations were reported involving a combination of sex and labor trafficking with 1,046 individual victims and survivors. And these are just those who were identified. Situations of sex trafficking can be difficult to recognize.

As I noted earlier in this series, anyone can be a trafficker and anyone can be a victim of sex trafficking. With this being the case, how can traffickers and victims be identified and, if sex trafficking is suspected, what recourses are available? It is the situation, and not the participants themselves necessarily, that often provides clues that sex trafficking is at hand. Some things that may be indicators are situations in which:

  • The employee is living with the employer.
  • Multiple employees are living in a cramped space in close proximity to the employer (often in impoverished conditions).
  • Employees do not have immediate access to their identifying documents or those documents are being held by their employer.
  • The employee has very few belongings or their belongings are managed by the employer.
  • The employer and employees are constantly moving around.
  • Employees may all have the same identifying tattoo, which is a mark to show ownership and ward off competing traffickers.

Apart from such situational indicators, the behaviors of victims may offer hints about their circumstances. The individual may not have the ability to speak unless their employer is present. When they do speak, their answers may come across as scripted. They may also show signs of abuse, have a fear of the authorities, and demonstrate little personal freedom.

Samantha Garrote/Pexels
Source: Samantha Garrote/Pexels

If you do suspect that someone is trafficking or being sex trafficked, is there anything you can actually do? Yes. There are many options open to you. Don’t take on the situation by yourself. It’s best to leave matters up to the authorities and professionals. What’s important is that you do something. It’s better to report your suspicions, even if you are wrong, than ignore the warning signs and leave an individual to be further victimized. If something seems wrong, it very well may be.

If you suspect that someone is trafficking or a victim of sex trafficking, you can contact any of the following:

  • The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
  • Live chat at: humantraffickinghotline.org/chat
  • Submit an online tip: traffickingresourcecenter.org/report/trafficking
  • Or simply call 911