Spotting the signs of sex trafficking
Sex trafficking is a crime that thrives on being hidden in plain sight. Traffickers actively maintain complete control over the victims they exploit, so it can be difficult for victims to report abuse or reach out for help without assistance. Because of this, it is important that we the public know how to recognize the warning signs and red flags of sex trafficking so we can take action when needed.
Here are some common warning signs that an individual may be a victim of trafficking:
- Signs of physical abuse, such as bruises, burn marks, or scars consistent with being tied up or imprisoned long-term.
- Being under the age of 18 and involved in any aspect of the commercial sex industry.
- Inability to provide details about their living situation, address, job or employer, financial security, or similar basic logistical information.
- Tattoos or other forms of branding, commonly on the neck or back, that may say things like “Property of…,” “For Sale,” etc.
- Evidence of a controlling or dominating relationship, such as excessive concern about pleasing a partner or excessive fear about upsetting or provoking a partner.
- Poor physical or dental health.
- Commonly wearing ‘inappropriate’ or overly sexualized clothing for what is usual in that weather or venue.
- Reluctance to talk about personal history, or seeming to share a scripted history or rehearsed responses.
- Being commonly accompanied by an older adult, especially an older man, who limits what they can say or does not let them speak for themselves.
- Checking into hotels/motels with older men, and referring to those men as “boyfriend” or “daddy”
- Avoiding eye contact or social interaction with law enforcement, health professionals, authority figures, or other common sources of help.
- Appearing to have a lack of personal possessions or official personal documents.
National Human Trafficking Hotline
- Call 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” to 233733
- To report information about a trafficking situation
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Call 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) or visit the Cyber Tipline
- To report missing children or child pornography
- The leading policy organization in the United States seeking to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
- A network of anti-trafficking and exploitation organizations throughout Missouri.
The Polaris Project
- To learn more about the dynamics of trafficking and advocacy work
- Download the mobile app
- To upload pictures of your hotel rooms to help build the database that tracks down traffickers through their online advertisements