January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Knowing the signs of human trafficking can help get victims out of these situations and into help sooner. Pasco Sheriff’s Office partners with the Pasco County Commission on Human Trafficking to prevent and respond to human trafficking cases. Everyone can play a vital role by recognizing common warning signs and reporting potential human trafficking activity.
The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking states that human trafficking involves the commercial exchange and exploitation of humans, including forced sexual acts, involuntary labor, servitude and debt bondage. A consistent aspect of human trafficking, regardless of form, is vulnerable victims. Victims also commonly have trafficking forced upon them. Sadly, victims may also stay in these situations out of fear or because they are under the control of someone else or don’t have the resources needed to leave. Though victims can be men, women and children from any race, socioeconomic group or nationality, children are more likely to be trafficked by someone they know, rather than a stranger. Additionally, most traffickers groom for exploitation over time instead of kidnapping them.
It’s important to understand and recognize common indicators of trafficking. Physical signs of trafficking can include evidence of violence or untreated wounds, exhaustion and malnourishment, addictions or even branding. Social and interpersonal signs can include being accompanied by a controlling individual, isolation from friends or family, little to no possessions, being severely underpaid or paid nothing at all for their work and not being in control of their money or personal documents, such as their driver’s license. There can also be mental and emotional signs, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, fearful behavior and not identifying as a victim of trafficking. Behavioral signs include individuals being submissive and nervous, avoiding eye contact with others, being afraid of law enforcement personnel and not being permitted to speak for themselves.
Rapid reporting of potential trafficking activity can help end human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a national, toll-free hotline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and in over 200 languages. It’s accessible by calling 1-888-373-7888. The Hotline is a safe space to report tips, seek services and ask for help. Discrete text message or online chat communication with the National Human Traffic Hotline is available by texting “BEFREE” (233733) or by visiting www.humantraffickinghotline.org online. Call the hotline to report tips, locate services, get help and learn about options available. All information provided is confidential and reporters can remain anonymous. To best protect victims and yourself never get directly involved in suspected trafficking activity; report it immediately instead.
Together, we can increase identification of warning signs to help reduce human trafficking and get services to survivors quicker. If you suspect human trafficking, report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline or local law enforcement immediately.
“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”
– Charles Spurgeon