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Sex Trafficking 101

Sex trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of commercial sex act.


A trafficker will often claim to love a victim or to be their significant other in order to learn vulnerabilities that he or she will exploit to the point where the victim feels entirely trapped.

Image by Anthony Tran

How Does Trafficking Happen?

Feelings of loneliness and a desire to be valued and loved can look and feel very different for some, and this type of vulnerability can be the number one target for what a trafficker is looking for. Traffickers will exploit vulnerabilities by making others believe that they are important, cared for, and truly want the best for them. This is called “grooming.”

Light and Shadow

Trafficking can happen to anyone from any walk of life. Nobody is immune to the grips of a manipulative predator. Traffickers, also known as pimps, cannot be identified by a standard set of characteristics. The single commonality is that they exploit young men and women, (including boys and girls) with their charming manner. Traffickers don't care who you are or where you came from. Your demographics and social status mean nothing to them. They merely see you as an object that fills their pockets and their need for sex and they will do anything to get it.

Be Aware

People Walking

So why don't victims just walk away?

Traffickers oftentimes use manipulation and threats about their victim’s family and friends to instill fear and control. Becoming dependent on the drugs of their trafficker’s choice, they have no capacity to "simply walk away or even run.” Victims often find themselves in a life they never saw coming.

Know the Warning Signs

Know the Red Flags & Warning Signs of Sex Trafficking:

  • Signs of physical abuse (Cigarette burns, wounds, bruising, etc)

  • Submissive behavior, like keeping head down in public or not making eye contact (especially with men) and not answering questions directly

  • Does not have access to any of the following: ID, Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, Insurance Information

  • Has multiple cell phones

  • Has prepaid credit cards with no name indicating whom they belong to

  • Branding including scars, tattoos, and piercings

  • Unexplained absences from work, school, or extracurricular activities

  • Lying about where he/she has been and whom they are hanging out with

  • A new crowd of friends or new friends on Facebook

  • Has an older boyfriend

  • Has an excessive amount of cash, condoms, and/or lubricant

  • Claims to have a “modeling” or “acting” job

  • Fearful of police and other types of law enforcement/first responders ​

Questions to Ask Someone If You Think They Are Being Trafficked:​
  • Have you ever had sex for money, somewhere to live, or food? ​

  • Can you go out with friends by yourself? ​

  • Do you have a curfew that was set by someone other than your parents?

  • Do you receive a pay stub for the work you do? Otherwise, they’re paid in cash.

  • Can you leave this job if you wanted? ​

  • Do you live with your employer? ​

  • What does this person want you to refer to him as? One example: “Daddy” ​

  • Do you have your ID? If not, who has it and are you allowed to have it?

If you suspect anything, say something by calling 911 or the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or Texting 233733

It's worth the risk of being wrong when one call could save a life. This life could be at stake. An observant onlooker who reports his or her concern to the police could very well be the window to freedom. 
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