Human Trafficking Q & A: Misconceptions, Signs and How to Help

We have the honor of working with some incredible people every day at Cornerstones of Care. Kim Case, our safety and health advocate, passionately supports survivors of human trafficking and has spent the last decade fighting for their rights. Kim works alongside law enforcement, legislature, court personnel and advocate partners to change laws, increase trauma-informed investigations and create communities responsive to the needs of violent crime victims like survivors of sex trafficking. We asked Kim what she wished everyone knew about human trafficking, but might not. Here are her answers.

What are some common misconceptions about human trafficking? 

One big misconception about human trafficking is that it occurs only with those facing poverty or those that identify in a disadvantaged racial group. Studies show that anyone is at risk of being ensnared and manipulated into the crime of human trafficking. Even those with no apparent vulnerabilities. The crime of trafficking is perpetrated by the use of fraud and coercion along with force. We often think it happens only in other countries but it is happening in the United States, in every state and in a large number of cities- both urban and rural. Men, woman and children fall victim. And men along with women can be the traffickers.

What are the most common ways that people fall into trafficking situations?

Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings. 

Traffickers use false job postings, social media and promises of a better life to lure unsuspecting victims into trafficking situations. Youth who are involved in child welfare or who runaway are particularly at risk. Traffickers are lying in wait to ensnare children into slavery using their vulnerabilities to groom and build a relationship.

What are signs that someone may be a victim of human trafficking? 

Recognizing indicators is the first step in helping someone that might be a victim of trafficking. Some questions to ask are:

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations or faith communities?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented/confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is “yes”, you are right to suspect that they might be trapped in a trafficking situation.

What is the best thing to do if you think you see or suspect an instance of trafficking? 

The safety of the public as well as the victim is paramount. Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to any suspicions. It is up to law enforcement to investigate suspected cases of human trafficking.

To report suspected human trafficking, call 1-866-347-2423.

To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP  or INFO to 233733 (BEFREE) 

If you want more information on the complexities of human trafficking and how to prevent it, sign up for one of our upcoming human trafficking trainings or follow the Blue Campaign. Together, we can work toward ending this form of modern slavery and help those it affects get the help they need.