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United Way Blog

Think You Can Spot the Signs of Human Trafficking?

Traffickers operate around the world, in every airport, bus terminal, and train station. They often harbor complete control over their victims, holding their passports closely and advising them to avoid eye contact and conversation with anyone. Victims are often too afraid to ask for help, and may even deny needing it when confronted. So how can you help? Learn to spot the common signs of human trafficking:

Victims tend to…

  • Avoid eye contact
  • Lack health care and appear malnourished
  • Are not allowed or able to speak for themselves
  • Live or work in places where there are high security measures in place (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, security cameras, etc.)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, created to help share survivor stories and important signs so that everyone can be a part of the solution.

What is human trafficking? Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery that targets victims of any age, race or gender. Traffickers use force, fraud, and coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex acts. Traffickers often use the promise of a better job, living situation, or educational opportunity to coerce victims across borders.

According to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Martha’s story is a typical example of how traffickers manipulate their victims. Martha was a deaf woman from Indonesia, who was promised a good job in a florist shop in the United States. Once here, she was forced to peddle trinkets on the street, and was sexually assaulted and threatened by her trafficker if she did not make her daily quota.

While human trafficking was once considered to be limited to developing countries, cases are found in all 50 states, and almost every country. It is estimated that more than 40 million people live in modern slavery, 25 million of which are in forced labor situations. And almost 5 million women are forced into sexual exploitation; while more than 15 million victims are forced into marriages.

Thanks to a groundbreaking partnership with UPS, the United Way Center on Human Trafficking & Slavery is rolling out a UPS-funded community training pilot in five cities during Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The pilot training is designed to help United Way partners and communities spot and respond to the signs of human trafficking. The pilot cities include Milwaukee, Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco and San Jose. Thanks to UPS' support, the final program will be adapted and then made available to United Way partners and communities nationwide.

If you ever suspect human trafficking, never confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert victims to your suspicions. Immediately contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or call 9-1-1.      

Inspired by what you read? Change starts with you. Take action today to make a difference in your community.