Nearly 20.9 million people worldwide are subjected to human trafficking. It is widely assumed that trafficking is a problem only in third-world countries. The truth is it happens right here in the United States. It’s been reported in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that human trafficking is the fastest-growing form of organized crime in the U.S. From 2007 to 2018, the National Human Trafficking Hotline documented 51,919 cases of trafficking.
A Growing Problem
Even more frightening for America, human trafficking is on the rise. There’s been a 25 percent increase in cases since 2017. It continues to prosper because it is hard to detect, and traffickers excel at what they do. The Alliance for Freedom, Restoration and Justice (AFRJ) indicated that traffickers use “invisible chains” to force victims into labor or to perform commercial sexual acts – using drugs, brainwashing, psychological and physical abuse, blackmail, debt bondage, threats of violence against their families, or whatever means necessary to keep victims in captivity.
Targets who are most susceptible to trafficking are those who are more vulnerable, according to the AFRJ. This includes runaway and homeless youth, children and youth in foster care, individuals fleeing violence or natural disasters, individuals with a disability, or those who have suffered other types of abuse or exploitation in their lifetimes.
While these individuals are more susceptible, human trafficking is not exclusive to someone who falls into one of these categories. Despite common misconceptions, anyone — regardless of age, gender, geographical location (city, suburb or rural area), level of education or socioeconomic background — can become a trafficking victim. We have provided you with information to identify trafficking victims and to shield yourself and your loved ones from falling prey to traffickers.
Identifying Human Trafficking Victims
These are some, but not all, of the ways to identify if someone may be a trafficking victim:
- Physical evidence of abuse
- Branding or unusual markings
- Avoids eye contact, social interaction and authority figures/law enforcement
- Constantly in the presence of a controlling person and submissive to him/her, refusing to act or answer for himself or herself
- Behaves or appears withdrawn, fearful, tense, depressed, distracted or checked out
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim
There are some simple steps you can take to help ensure you or a loved one does not become a human trafficking victim:
- Do your research on a job offer that seems too good to be true. Traffickers will sometimes use high-paying jobs that require minimal work as bait.
- Don’t drink alcohol to excess or take a drink from someone you don’t know.
- Travel in groups whenever in public and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t walk alone in secluded areas. Traffickers are known to abduct individuals.
- If you plan to meet someone you befriended on social media, do not go by yourself. Traffickers regularly employ social media as a means of luring victims to them.
- Trust your gut. Don’t put yourself in an uncomfortable situation or around suspicious people.
- Consider taking a self-defense course in case you are confronted by a trafficker.
Remember, traffickers — just like any other criminals — are searching for vulnerabilities and opportunities to take advantage of you. These criminals will do anything in their power to find and retain control of victims. Don’t give them the upper hand. Be vigilant and practice proper situational awareness. Make this a part of your lifestyle if you aren’t already doing so. Educate yourself about this hidden epidemic in the United States and take these simple precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones from trafficking.
Note: If you suspect that someone may be a trafficking victim, report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to “BeFree” (233733). Do not attempt to intervene.
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