When we think of human trafficking, we tend to believe this is happening only in third-world countries, where rampant poverty and political instability create the perfect conditions for this heinous crime. However, as social services and law enforcement personnel can attest, this crime can also happen in a first-world country like the United States. From false promises of well-paying jobs to the lure of romantic relationships, the victim of human trafficking, sex trafficking, or labor trafficking suffers through fear, violence, and exploitation.
At Babin Law, our team of experienced attorneys represents the victims of human trafficking in Ohio, and we are ready to listen to your situation to see if we can help. The most powerful weapons against this violent crime are being informed and being vigilant. In this article, we will discuss the wide range of dangerous situations disguised as great opportunities and how to recognize the signs of a potential trafficking situation, as well as the signs that someone may be a victim of human trafficking.
What Is Human Trafficking and Who Are the Likely Victims?
According to the United Nations, a human trafficking situation has three core components:
- the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving people
- the means of doing so by: threat, use of force, coercion, fraud, deception, abusing a position of vulnerability
- the purpose of trafficking: for sexual or labor exploitation.
Potential victims of human trafficking are of all sexes, ages, and races. Human traffickers tend to choose targets in vulnerable populations and groups, such as:
- women living in areas with extreme gender discrimination
- people subject to racial discrimination
- persons who suffer from a form of mental illness
- people involved in gangs
Other common risk factors are the involvement in abusive relationships, the absence of a supportive adult in a child's life, and the involvement in drug trafficking.
The risk for sex trafficking is significantly higher in the case of women and children. And we are not only talking of international victims brought into the US. Domestic sex trafficking is happening right here in Ohio, in our cities and streets.
How to Recognize Victims of Trafficking
All of us can do something to stop child trafficking and labor trafficking. The National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, in collaboration with the Polaris nonprofit organization, includes the setting-up of the National Human Trafficking hotline, where anyone can give a tip or report a human trafficking situation. A simple phone call or online message can make all the difference for thousands of children, women and men, victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and forced labor.
But how do you recognize minor and adult victims of human trafficking? Human trafficking survivors and the public officials and members of community-based recovery services indicate the following warning signs:
- the victims appear malnourished and with signs of physical abuse
- the victims avoid eye contact and social interactions
- they appear to use rehearsed answers in public interactions
- they live in crowded "dormitories" or at their place of employment
- youth sex trafficking victims are frequently seen checking into motels accompanied by older males
- unable to produce identification documents
- unable to go out in public alone.
The first step in getting justice for victims is staying vigilant and reporting to the trafficking task force any instance when a person appears to be a victim of sexual exploitation, labor trafficking, or domestic servitude.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Human Trafficking
No one believes that they could be tricked or forced to become a victim of sex trafficking or labor trafficking. However, law enforcement officials and federal agencies in charge of human trafficking investigations know that traffickers use complex tactics to lure their victims. They also rely on modern technologies, such as chat features and email messages to contact potential victims.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, these are some of the warning signs that you may be targeted for human trafficking:
False Job Promises
Everyone wants to live a better life and find well-paying jobs. However, there are some instances when a job offer is too good to be true. Also, the job offer is accompanied by specific actions and behaviors from the would-be employer, which you should deem highly suspicious.
The red flags in a job offer are:
- very high hourly rate for a low-paying job
- no inquiries into your previous work experience and education
- unclear details about the terms of employment, the location of the workplace, or the company itself
- being pressured to accept the job on the spot, otherwise the opportunity will disappear
- the employer asks a lot of personal questions that are not related to the job offer
- you are requested to keep the new job a secret from family and friends
False Promises of Love
We all look for that perfect love story and the happily ever after. It is human nature - to find a loving partner, create a family, and raise children. But many ruthless individuals exploit this natural inclination for criminal purposes. They lure victims with promises of love and marriage, and end up taking away their identification documents and freedom to act.
This scheme is known to law enforcement officials with human trafficking experience as "Loverboy" or "Romeo trafficker" and its warning signs are:
- the would-be trafficker demands to know your whereabouts all the time
- they try to isolate you from family and friends
- threatens physical violence against you or your loved ones if you do not do as they say
- provides you with financial support, while demanding you give up your job and stop having your own source of income
- forces you into sexual activity for money or for other valuable items or drugs
Luring Children and Teens Online
Children and teenagers are extremely vulnerable in the online environment. There are countless threats hidden behind online games and apps and invitations to connect with other people on social media platforms.
According to the Ohio Attorney General, these are the key warning signs that a teen may be groomed for child sex trafficking:
- a drastic change in personality
- the teen becomes isolated and spends a lot of time online with new friends
- the teen is secretive about their mobile phone and a new group of friends
- the teen is seeking validation and emotional support online
- the teen spends time discussing with adults online and receives flattery and compliments
- the teen loses interest in old hobbies and friends.
Protect Your Child From Becoming a Victim of Human Trafficking
A confident and independent adult is a child who was raised to know their worth and rights. Parents play a key role in helping their children stay away from risky behaviors and interactions. To do so, they should:
- monitor their children's online activity with parental control apps
- insist on meeting the child's friends and their parents in person
- build your children's skills for resilience
- help your children develop self-esteem from an early age
- always be available to talk to your children
The most important aspect is this: trust your instincts and err on the safe side. If any interaction with an individual feels wrong, immediately terminate it or make sure that your child is no longer in contact with the respective person.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of human trafficking, the experienced human trafficking attorneys at Babin Law want to help. Call today at 833-SURVIVORS to see if we will be able to take on your case and get you the justice you deserve.