Human trafficking can happen to anyone at any age. It is important to know the signs of trafficking so we can offer support to those who may be experiencing it. Below is a list of possible signs that someone is being trafficked. If someone shows a few of these signs, it does not necessarily mean that they are being trafficked, but may lead us to have conversations with them to better understand what is going on
The person shows signs of abuse, such as bruising, cigarette burns, fractures, etc.
The person seems malnourished or lacks medical care.
The person has tattooing or branding symbols, particularly names.
The person is not allowed to speak for themselves and their activities are controlled by someone else.
The person seems fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid. They may avoid eye contact, seem fearful around police, etc.
Substance use issues
Self-harm behaviors, for example, cutting
Wearing clothing that is inappropriate for the weather or situation
The person seems fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous/paranoid or hyper-vigilant.
The person doesn't have their own things or money
The person doesn't have their own identification
The person doesn’t have their own things or money and doesn’t control their own passport or other documents.
The person has been reported missing.
The person is under 18 years old and involved in sex work.
The person is unpaid or paid very little to work, and seems to be treated poorly (long or unusual hours, not allowed breaks, forced to live in poor conditions, etc.).
The person is repaying a large debt through labour or sex.
The person is moved frequently and may not know their surroundings well.
Warning Signs in a Young Person/Friend
When a young person is experiencing trafficking or exploitation, they may exhibit some signs that may indicate their situation. It is important for us to know these signs so we can look out for our friends, family, and students. Below is a list of some signs that may indicate a young person is being trafficking, or beginning to be groomed by a trafficker. They do not necessarily mean that the person is certainly being trafficked. But, if we notice many of these signs in one of our friends, family members, or students, it may be helpful to have a conversation with them about these changes.
All-consuming relationship with a new friend or significant other
Unexplained access to money or designer items
Sudden interest in being glamorous/sexy
Abnormally evasive about relationships, people, and activities
Quick decline in relationship with family and usual friends
Sudden loss of trust in authority figures
Changes in social media posts (more sexual in nature, glorifying crime, showing off money/designer items)
Cell phone records showing frequent calls to hotels/motels/strip clubs/parlours/unknown numbers
Regularly having hotel items (key cards/toiletries/pamphlets)
Use of a secondary cell phone
Showing signs of physical abuse (bruises, burns, injuries)
New tattoos or other possessive brandings
Regularly skipping school or other usual activities
Away from home at odd times or for extended periods of time with no explanation
Uncharacteristic spike in anxiety, aggression, hostility
Declining physical/mental health
Who is Trafficked?
Anyone could be exploited through the sex industry, but there are some communities that are at a much higher risk.
Mostly women and girls
Youth experiencing homelessness and marginalized youth
Youth may be targeted who struggle with: low self-esteem, bullying, discrimination, poverty, abuse, and/or isolation
People who struggle with addiction, mental health issues and developmental disabilities
Those whose first language is not English
Traffickers are exploiting individuals not only in person, but online too. Listed below are some possible signs of online exploitation.
Changes in Online Habits:
More or less time spent online than usual.
Become secretive about or try to hide what they are doing online or who they are interacting with.
May close themselves in the room or change screens when someone else enters the room.
Increase in online contacts.
Changes in Mood/Behaviour:
May seem distant, upset or irritable.
Become angry or agitated.
Seems to withdraw from others.
May avoid being away from their device or become uncomfortable when someone else is in possession of their device.
May receive unexplained gifts online or in the mail
Join us in fighting for freedom and the end of sex trafficking.