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Human Trafficking: What to Look Out for & Report
Posted by Emily Pazel

Although it’s not a light-hearted topic to discuss, human trafficking is a huge problem that happens around the globe more often than you think. In fact, around 40 million people every year are impacted in some form by this tragic situation around the world. 

Every year in January, human trafficking – which is the exploitation of individuals through threat or use force, coercion, abduction, fraud, and/or deception – is brought to light during National Human Trafficking Month to help raise awareness about this deeply disturbing event and aims to try to put an end to it, which is a large feat to undertake.

Unfortunately, among the different types of human trafficking, child sex trafficking and the recruitment and use of children soldiers are the types of ways children can become involved. It’s important to be on the lookout for signs that someone may be experiencing in this situation. 

Signs to Look Out for

It’s believed that human trafficking is one of the world’s fastest growing criminal industries, and that children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, especially when that child is connected in some way to the welfare system. The average age of child sex trafficking victims is 15 years old, according to numbers of children reported missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

Here are some warning signs for child sex trafficking:

  • Chronic runaway/ homeless youth

  • Excess amount of cash in their possession and may be reluctant to explain where it came from

  • Hotel keys and key cards

  • Lying about age/false ID

  • Inconsistencies when describing and recounting events

  • Unable or unwilling to give local address or information about parents(s) and/or guardian

  • Presence of fear of another person (often times an older male or boyfriend who might be controlling)

  • High number of reported sexual partners at a young age

  • Sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites

  • Injuries/sign of physical abuse (that often times, they are reluctant to explain)

  • Inability or fear of social interaction

  • Demeanor exhibiting fear, anxiety, depression, submissiveness, tenseness, nervousness

  • Is not enrolled in school or repeated absence from school

  • Does not consider themselves a victim

  • Loyalty to positive feelings toward pimp/trafficker

  • May try to protect pimp/trafficker from authorities

  • Prepaid cell phone

Now that you know the types of situations to look out for, it’s time to ask yourself, how can I help? Although this is a problem that happens around the globe, it could be happening right now in your very own neighborhood. So, while it’s good to know the signs to look for, it’s even better to know how to help out.

How to Protect Against Human Trafficking

Sometimes, it’s tough to think that one person can make a difference on a global issue such as human trafficking. However, if you can help out even one child or one person (adults included) from enduring this situation, you’re making a huge difference in someone’s life.

Here are a few different ways that you can help:

  • Be knowledgeable about the signs of human trafficking so that you can help identify a potential situation where authorities may need to become involved

  • If you are in the United States and believe someone may be experiencing human trafficking, report your suspicions to law enforcement by calling 911 or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888; it should be noted that trafficking victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance

  • Be conscientious and an informed consumer by asking who picked the tomatoes you just purchased or who made your clothes; encourage companies to take steps to investigate and prevent human trafficking in their supply chains and publish the information, including supplier or factory lists for consumer awareness

  • Find anti-trafficking efforts located in your own community and support or volunteer with them

  • Meet with and/or write to your local, state, and federal government representatives to them know you care about combating human trafficking and see what they are doing to help address it

Most importantly, keeping a communication line open is key to helping someone who might be experiencing a bad situation. Even in your own home, one of the most important things you can do to help protect your family is to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable talking to you and/or expressing their concerns. Within your family, have a talk about the dangers of sex trafficking with your kids (when old enough) and encourage them to let you know if they encounter any uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situations.

Every child, no matter the situation, deserves a warm bed and unconditional love and support of a family. While in the workplace, it’s sometimes up to you to report certain situations that you may see going on, such as child abuse. 

Reporting Child Abuse

While working as a dentist, physician, chiropractor, psychologist, school teacher, daycare worker, police officer, etc., or any profession where you interact with children, it’s important that you report any kind of suspicion or knowledge of child abuse taking place. 

In the state of New York, working professionals are required to take a mandated reporter training course to ensure that workers are reporting child abuse or maltreatment/neglect. And as a mandated reporter, you are required to report suspected incidents.

When looking for signs of child abuse or neglect, they can be somewhat similar to the signs we previously mentioned in this blog:

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities

  • Changes in behavior, such as aggression anger, hostility or hyperactivity, or changes in school performance

  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears or sudden loss of self-confidence

  • An apparent lack of supervision

  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns

  • Injuries that don’t match the given explanation

  • Frequent absence from school

  • Reluctance to leave school activities

  • Attempts at running away

  • Rebellious or defiant behavior

  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide 

Sometimes, the parents’ behavior can even be a giveaway when it comes to child abuse. There are a few warning signs that you can be on the lookout for, such as the parent showing little concern for the child or blaming the child for problems Other signs include belittling or berating the child, using harsh disciplines or severely limits the child’s contact with others.

If you see suspicious and/or incriminating activity where you believe a child is being neglected or abused, you can contact the New York State Central Register (SCR) of Child Abuse and Maltreatment by calling their express line number at 800-635-1522 or by calling their public hotline number at 800-342-3720.

If you would like to register for the New York Mandated Reporter Training Course, you can do so by visiting:

So, while we live in a country that seems relatively safe for our children, just know that danger could be lurking around the corner. It’s best to be knowledgeable about child abuse and how that could quickly escalate to something more extreme, such as human trafficking. And if someone you know or think might be going through a bad situation, know to call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Now that you know the signs and know what actions to take against this type of violence, it’s up to you to be the bigger person and help those in need.