You want to help but you don’t know where to start. You don’t know what you are looking for and and you certainly would not know what to do if you did. Trafficking may be underground, but it is not completely out of sight.
If you encounter any of the following call 1-888-3737-888 immediately. This is the national hotline for the Polaris Project. They will be able to help.
The warning sign you are most likely to be aware of is prostitution. Not all prostitutes are trafficked, but all underage (under 18 years old) prostitutes are legally considered trafficked. For many of you reading this, you don’t comb the streets at night looking for a prostitute to pick-up. However, when you are traveling you are more likely to see prostitutes at truck stops and rest areas.
Lack of Freedoms
Can the person move about freely without someone watching his/her every move? A lack of freedom may indicate that someone is trapped in slavery. The person may be working long and hard hours at their job and my have incurred a debt that they can’t seem to repay. Does the person have any control of his/her life? If a person has been trafficked then he/she will often not be able to speak for him/herself. She will not have access to personal identification or have very many possessions.
Along these lines, if you notice that someone is living in a home with many more people than should be living in that size home, it may indicate they are being held against their will. Additionally, if someone is living in a home with a high fence, bars on the window, or the windows are blacked out they may be held against their will.
There are several mental and physical health considerations to be on the lookout for. Does the person show any signs of abuse? Abuse can take the form of malnourishment, mental cruelty, anxiety and/or depression. Does the person appear to be hyper-vigilant? Or, does he/she avoid making eye contact? These are all signs that a person may not have control over the decisions that he or she should be able to make.
This is the tricky part. It may seem difficult to spot when these things are going on. Not every case of paranoia or malnourishment is trafficking related. These are just potential warning signs. The request is not for anyone to get paranoid, but rather be aware that something may not be right. If we all paid a little more attention to our surroundings, we could collectively make a big difference.