Human Trafficking Q&A
What signs or markers do we look for in someone being trafficked?
Red Flags are the signs that a person might be in the process of being groomed or trafficked.
- Sudden change of appearance
- Drastic change in how they dress (whether from revealing to extremely conservative or vice versa)
- Weight loss
- Looks overwhelmed and unhealthy
- Overly sexual behavior
- Having sex with multiple partners/strangers
- Initiating sexualized conversations
- Being seen as promiscuous by peers
- Dating someone who is older
- Person is overprotective or controlling
- Power imbalance because of the age difference
- Love bombing
- Talking about love with the victim very quickly after meeting them
- Asking for nude photos very early on
- Sudden change in attitude or language
- Sudden change in material possession
*The gifting process: intentionally creating a debt that they will eventually use against the victi
- Multiple cell phones
- Expensive purses
- Changes in attendance and interests
- Ditching school
- Excessive tardiness for days or weeks
- Lack of interest in things they previously cared about
- Using drugs
- Answers to questions appear practiced or rehearsed
- Shifts in behavior
- Distant or distracted
- Crying and/or depression
- Appears scared to speak up
- Lack of eye contact
- Bruises and scars
- New tattoos that display a name
- New tattoos that reference cash or a symbol like $, a crown, or flowers with dollar bills as petals
How can we recognize when someone is vulnerable to being trafficked?
- Single parent home with minimal supervision
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of a strong social network
- Unsupervised online time
- Seeks online friendships and connections
- Runaway youth, homeless and foster care youth, LGBTQ+, and youth with disabilities
- Youth who have already experienced violence in their lives, like neglect, sexual, physical or emotional abuse
- Middle school and early high school aged girls
*This group is the primary target
Even though circumstances add to vulnerabilities, this can still affect anyone.
What are the signs that someone may be a recruiter or sex trafficker?
- Can be any gender
- Can be significantly older or even the same age
- Encourages your freedom and independence from family and friends (isolation)
- Promises things that seem too good to be true
- Promises shelter
- Promises food
- Promises to look out for you
- Suggests that they know how to help you make a lot of money
- Buys expensive gifts or likes to flash their money
- Wants to take suggestive photos
- Encourages you to model or dance for money
- Is vague about his/her profession and can’t prove what they really do
- Gets jealous easily
- Seems controlling or exhibits violence
- Gets pushy or demanding about sex
- Makes you feel responsible for his/her financial stability
- Very open about financial matters
How can I keep myself safe when I'm out?
- Carry your phone and important numbers with you at all times
- Tell someone you trust where you are going
- Stay out of isolated or unfamiliar places and don’t go out alone
- Ask your friends to keep their cell phones with them while they are out with you, in case you get separated and need help
- Make sure your friends have your important numbers (parents/caregivers)
- No matter where you go, be aware of how to leave safely in case of emergency
- Avoid situations or people that could be harmful or dangerous to you --- trust your gut feelings
- LEAVE if you are uncomfortable in a situation, no matter what your friends are doing
- Call 911 if you feel your safety is at risk
- Spend time with people who make you feel safe, supported, and good about yourself
How do I keep myself safe online?
- Make all of your social media accounts PRIVATE
- Block individuals who make you uncomfortable
- Delete any explicit images sent to you
- Do not share/forward explicit images – even in the context of your romantic relationships
- Report inappropriate or threatening messages
- Inform an adult you trust if you are concerned about your well-being or the well-being of another whose images are being circulated
- Don't support your own objectification
Where can I get help for me or a friend?
National Human Trafficking Hotline
Take It Down
This service is one step you can take to help remove online nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photos and videos taken before you were 18.
San Diego Youth Services I CARE Program
I CARE supports youth, up to age 21, who are at risk for or have experienced sex trafficking or other commercial sexual exploitation. The program provides a mental health clinic and a drop-in center.
North County Lifeline
Lifeline serves our community through programs that focus on positive youth development, child abuse prevention and domestic violence intervention, housing and self-sufficiency, behavioral health, and human trafficking victim and survivor services.
Human Trafficking Definitions
Grooming: When someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. They will try to try to gain the victim’s trust, provide for the victim’s needs and isolate the victim.
Objectification: When a person is treated as an object or a thing instead of as a living, breathing, feeling human being.
Recruiter: A person who is enticing and bringing people into the life of sex trafficking, but they may work for the trafficker and not necessarily be the person doing the actual pimping.
Red Flags: Signs you look for in a possible victim. The indicators that a person is being groomed or trafficked.
Sextortion: A form of blackmail where someone threatens to share a nude or sexual image or video of you unless you give in to their demands.
Vulnerabilities: The life experiences or factors that can cause a person to be more susceptible to human rights abuses like trafficking.
Labor Trafficking: A form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Those three words are important because they define whether it falls under trafficking or not. One of these must be present for the situation to be considered trafficking:
- Force: physically restraining or harming a victim
- Fraud: intentionally deceiving victims about their job duties, work conditions and/or payment or promising things like tuition help or green card
- Coercion: includes threats of serious psychological or physical harm to the victims or their loved ones, as well as real or threatened abuse of the legal system. Can also include withholding a person’s money, i.d. or immigration paperwork.
CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children): A commercial transaction that involves the sexual exploitation of a child, such as the buying and selling of children for sex, stripping, child pornography, interfamilial pimping, and survival sex.