How To Recognize Sex-Trafficking

Sex trafficking affects 25 million people around the globe, according to The Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to the “fight to eradicate modern slavery.”

When most people think of sex trafficking (or human trafficking), they envision it as a far-off problem, something that affects communities in foreign corners of the globe. What you may not have considered, however, is that sexual assault through trafficking occurs in the U.S. every day.

Perhaps you’ve heard that the Super Bowl sees a dramatic increase in occurrences of sex trafficking in the cities where it is held. While it is important to remember the problem of sex trafficking during that time, it’s important to remember that sex trafficking is happening at all times in the United States at the same levels of frequency.

While rates of reported sex trafficking are lower in the US than they are in some other regions, it is certainly an issue that Americans must address. It is estimated that for every 1,000 citizens, 1.3 people are trafficked in the U.S. and living in slavery conditions.

Those affected by sex trafficking are typically involved in industries that you may not have considered. It is fairly common for victims of trafficking to be involved in domestic work, agriculture, traveling sales, restaurant/food services, and health/beauty services. Many of the people involved in this sort of exploitation are sexually abused by employers in addition to being exploited for labor purposes. Victims can be trafficked in their own states, cities, and even their own homes.

Keeping Yourself Safe

It is actually a myth that all human trafficking is the result of a violent kidnapping by a stranger. It is not uncommon that a victim of human trafficking would be targeted by a romantic partner or family member. It is also fairly common for human traffickers to use deception and psychological manipulation to lure victims into trafficking.

Sometimes victims are violently forced into trafficking, but it is more common that they are coerced into sex trafficking by subtle manipulation, threats of deportation, or some other legal consequence that places the victim in a compromising position.

Don’t assume that you are free from risk of human trafficking.

There are a number of ways you can keep yourself safe from trafficking:

-Always research solicitations for work. If you see an ad posted looking for employees and the company is unknown or lacks information, do some digging before responding to advertisements.

-If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Human traffickers will often pose as job recruiters offering large sums of money for simple jobs. Be extremely skeptical of offers like these and never meet with an unknown employer alone.

-Trust your gut. As mentioned before, sometimes people are coerced into sex trafficking by loved ones or other people they know. Human traffickers are also known to psychologically manipulate victims through extravagant gifts used as bargaining chips and means of guilting their victims into sex trafficking. If a partner or family member is pressuring you into engaging in sexual activity that you’re not comfortable with, speak out.

-Be aware of your online presence. Not everyone is who they present themselves to be online. If you receive any messages from people you don’t know, your safest bet is to not even respond. Especially if they ask to meet in person, you could be putting yourself at great risk. If someone talking to you online is a person you don’t already know in the real world, keep yourself safe and block the unknown user. When using dating websites and apps, be cautious when you meet people in person. Don’t give out your address to someone on an app. Meet them in public and wait until you’ve confirmed that they are trustworthy before offering any sensitive personal details.

How You Can Help

Aside from keeping yourself safe, there are active measures you can take to address the global sex trafficking crisis.

Be informed about the signs of sex trafficking. According to The Polaris Project, these are a few common indicators that someone may be a victim of sex trafficking:

  • The person is not free to leave or come and go at will
  • The person is under 18 and providing commercial sex acts
  • The person is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp and/or manager
  • The person is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • The person works excessively long and/or unusual hours

Be on the lookout for any of these signs for people in your community.

Sex trafficking is often called modern-day slavery, an issue that many countries believed they had resolved centuries ago. As a society, it is our role to protect the vulnerable and exploited in the fight to bring an end to this crisis.

If you or someone you know has been involved in sex trafficking and you need help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

You can also chat with TheHopeLine’s Hope Coaches who have been trained in recognizing and assisting those who are being trafficked.

To learn more about issues like sexual abuse, the sex industry, and abusive relationships, browse our library of podcasts, ebooks, and blogs to learn more about potential warning signs and the road to recovery from emotional trauma:

  • What Are The Signs Of An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?
  • How Can I Recover From Domestic Abuse?
  • How Can I Get Out Of An Abusive Relationship?

FAQ on Sex-Trafficking:

What Is Sex Trafficking?

Sex traffickers seek out vulnerable boys, girls, and women and lure them, or outright kidnap them, and remove them from their friends and family and force them into performing sex acts and sexual slavery. Most victims find themselves in abusive situations from which escape is both difficult and dangerous. These predators use everything from drugs, physical and sexual abuse, lies, psychological manipulation, and actual imprisonment to get their victims to do what they want. 

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