January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and sites all around the nation are observing the month dedicated to prevention of trafficking and slavery.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines human trafficking and modern slavery as any crime that “exploits another person for labor, services or commercial sex.”
Here are five things to know about trafficking, its prevalence and the ways to spot it.
1. What does modern day slavery and human trafficking look like?
Trafficking is used in both legal and illegal labor industries, including: child care, elder care; the drug trade; prostitution; massage parlors; nail and hair salons; restaurants; hotels; factories; farms; domestic servitude and exotic dance clubs.
2. Who are the victims?
While there is no single profile of a trafficking victim, the DOJ reports that traffickers around the world tend to prey on individuals who are poor, vulnerable, living in unsafe situations, and those who are in search of a better life.
Some of the most vulnerable populations for trafficking in the U.S. include Native American communities, LGBTQ individuals, the disabled, undocumented migrants, runaway and homeless youth, temporary guest-workers and low-income individuals. The majority of victims are female, but children tend to be some of the most vulnerable.
False promises of love, a good job, or stability and are often used and victims are are lured or forced to work under deplorable conditions and receive little or no pay.
“Victims of human trafficking can be anyone—regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, education level, or citizenship status,” the DOJ reports.
3. Scope of the problem
The Texas Attorney General’s Office estimates that, at any given time, there are some 234,000 victims of labor trafficking and 79,000 victims of youth and juvenile sex trafficking, statewide. In 2018, the National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded more than 1,000 cases of reported human trafficking in Texas. Of those cases, 719 were considered sex trafficking and 224 involved juvenile victims.
Nationwide, the Trafficking Hotline has logged nearly 52,000 trafficking reports between 2007 and 2018. The Polaris Project, which aims to curb modern-day slavery and trafficking, lists California, Texas and Florida as the states with the highest number of trafficking cases. New York City and Las Vegas also have increased rates of trafficking.
But perhaps most shocking is the global scale of human trafficking. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 40 million people worldwide are currently thought to be enslaved or trafficked — a figure that far exceeds the Transatlantic slave trade at its peak in the 1700s.
4. Know the signs
Trafficking takes different forms and the red flags for each can vary, according to the Texas AG’s office.
Victims of labor trafficking are often recruited through promises related to citizenship or the improvement of working conditions, but instead are frequently subjected to excessively long work schedules, grueling physical demands, irregular pay, and physical violence. Signs among victims include bruising, scarring, chronic pain, malnutrition and untreated medical conditions. Labor traffickers often maintain control of their victims by managing their social interactions, forcing them to live on job sites, controlling transportation, making threats of violence and withholding identification documents and money.
Adult sex trafficking employs some of the same techniques for controlling victims, but can be spotted through different indicators. Hallmarks include unusual foot traffic in and out of hotels, condoms in trash cans, drug-store receipts, room keys, rolls of cash, pre-paid cards, lingerie and high-end clothing. Victims may have visible injuries, brands or tattoos and may avoid eye-contact when out in public.
And the first signs of child sex trafficking are often noticed amid increased isolation from friends and family, as well as changes in school attendance, demeanor and vocabulary. Victims may begin to wear revealing clothing, conceal their use of multiple phones and social media accounts, take provocative photos of themselves and amass a collection of high-dollar, luxury items.
5. How to report trafficking and find help
Whether an individual is a victim or witness to human trafficking, there are a number of resources available to report suspected cases.
Call 9-1-1 in an emergency
If someone is seriously hurt or in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Tell dispatchers human trafficking may be involved to help route the call to the proper authorities. Do not approach traffickers and wait for law enforcement to arrive. The Texas AG’s Office categorizes human traffickers some of the state’s most violent offenders.
National Human Trafficking Hotline
In a non-emergency situation, reports can be made through the National Human Trafficking Hotline. To reach the 24-hour hotline, call 1-888-373-7888, text “Help” to 233733, or email email@example.com. Reports can be made confidentially.
Texas Abuse Hotline and Child Protective Services
If child trafficking is suspected and the situation requires urgent investigation, reports can be made to the Texas Abuse hotline by calling 1-800-252-5400. If immediate investigation is not needed, reports can be filed online with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services by visiting http://www.texasabusehotline.org.
Texas Department of Public Safety Victim Services
The Texas DPS has regional counselors and services available to help support trafficking victims. For assistance, call 512-424-2211 or visit http://www.dps.texas.gov and search for “victim services.”
Texas Attorney General’s Office
Suspected trafficking can also be reported to the AG’s Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section by calling 512-463-1646 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The AG’s Office also offers “Be the One,” a free, hour-long online video that teaches viewers how to spot the signs of human trafficking. To watch the video visit https://vimeo.com/244718411.