Text hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm weekdays
From humantraffickinghotline.organd polarisproject.org
Is it Trafficking?
U.S. law defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor against their will. The one exception involves minors and commercial sex. Inducing a minor into commercial sex is considered human trafficking regardless of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion. If you believe you are being trafficked or have been, please reach out to EWP’s 24/7 crisis line at 231-722-3333.
The Action-Means-Purpose (AMP) Model can clarify the federal law. Human trafficking occurs when a perpetrator, often referred to as a trafficker, takes an Action, and then employs the Means of force, fraud, or coercion for the Purpose of compelling the victim to provide commercial sex acts or labor or services. At a minimum, one element from each column must be present to establish a potential situation of human trafficking.
*Inducing a minor into commercial sex is considered human trafficking regardless of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion.
- Commercial Sex (Sex Trafficking) or
- Labor/Services (Labor Trafficking)
There is no single method of force, fraud, or coercion. Based on the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project’s Duluth Model, this Power and Control Wheel outlines the several types of abuse that can occur in labor and sex trafficking situations.
Who is most vulnerable?
Anyone can experience trafficking in any community, just as anyone can be the victim of any kind of crime. While it can happen to anyone, evidence suggests that people of color and LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience trafficking than other demographic groups. Generational trauma, historic oppression, discrimination, and other societal factors and inequities create community-wide vulnerabilities. Traffickers recognize and take advantage of people who are vulnerable.
People may be vulnerable to trafficking if they:
- Have an unstable living situation
- Have previously experienced other forms of violence such as sexual abuse or domestic violence
- Have run away or are involved in the juvenile justice or child welfare system
- Are undocumented immigrants
- Are facing poverty or economic need
- Have a caregiver or family member who has a substance use issue
- Are addicted to drugs or alcohol
Who are the Traffickers?
There is no evidence that traffickers are more likely to be of a particular race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. They may be family members, romantic partners, acquaintances, or strangers.
Recognizing the Signs
Chances are there is going to be nothing visible, nothing that you can see from across the room, or even from up close, that should alert you that a stranger is being trafficked. That may come as a surprise – especially if you have been to a training where you have been taught the signs or indicators of trafficking, such as a person looking disheveled, upset, or scared.
As we learn more about how trafficking really works, we are also learning that the best way to help is to pay attention to people you know or interact with – your students, your tenants, your children, your patients, your co-workers. It is all about two key words: context and proximity.
What is Grooming?
Sex traffickers carefully and methodically work to gain their victims’ trust, create a degree of dependence, and subtly promote the idea that selling sexual services is normal, acceptable, and necessary. Successful grooming results in vulnerable people cooperating in their own exploitation and abuse and believing they have made the choice to do so independently.
- Targeting the Victim: Traffickers look for people who have emotional or material needs that are not being met, like teens who lack confidence; or young adults who post online about a bad break up.
- Gaining Trust: Traffickers get to know their victims and use what they learn to make it appear they are the perfect match, the answer to their dreams, the person they can count on. They listen, provide support, and bide their time.
- Meeting Needs: Once traffickers know what victims want or need, they give it to them – or at least dangle it in front of them – letting them taste what it feels like to be loved, or safe, or taken care of.
- Isolation: As the relationship grows, the trafficker slowly cuts the victim off from friends and loved ones, strengthening the sense of dependence.
- Exploitation: This could start slowly, with the victim asked for nudes or videos then to have sex for money “just this once” or “to help me out.” Over time it becomes normalized, so that the victim thinks they are making the decision on their own.
- Maintaining Control: After traffickers establish control over their victims, they must carefully craft strategies to maintain it. These strategies differ depending on the person or the situation. In many cases, physical force is not necessary. The trafficker may keep their victim in a trafficking situation by continuing to isolate them, threatening them or their loved ones if they attempt to leave, threaten to tell their parents about their nudes, controlling them through their addiction, or even manipulating their sense of self. Sometimes losing the idea, the illusion of love, is enough to keep a person in a trafficking situation.
The purpose of the grooming process is for a trafficker to be able to gain full control over their victim and manipulate them into cooperating in their own exploitation.
Recognizing Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking occurs when individuals are made to perform commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion. Any child under 18 who is involved in commercial sex is legally a victim of trafficking, regardless of whether there is a third party involved.
Someone may be experiencing sex trafficking if they:
- Want to stop participating in commercial sex but feel scared or unable to leave the situation.
- Disclose that they were reluctant to engage in commercial sex but that someone pressured them into it.
- Live where they work or are transported by guards between home and workplace.
- Are children who live with or are dependent on a family member with a substance use problem or is abusive.
- Have a “pimp” or “manager” in the commercial sex industry.
- Work in an industry where it may be common to be pressured into performing sex acts for money, such as a strip club, illicit cantina, go-go bar, or illicit massage business.
- Have a controlling parent, guardian, romantic partner, or “sponsor” who will not allow them to meet or speak with anyone alone or who monitors their movements, spending, or communications.
Safety planning can include risk assessments, preparations, and contingency plans to increase the safety of a human trafficking victim or an individual at-risk for human trafficking, as well as any agency or individual assisting a victim. Safety plans:
- Assess the current risk and identify current and potential safety concerns.
- Create strategies for avoiding or reducing the threat of harm.
- Outline concrete options for responding when safety is threatened or compromised.
Safety planning is important while a victim is experiencing trafficking, during the process of leaving, and once the victim has left. Consider these tips for conducting safety planning. We cannot guarantee an individual’s safety or the prevention of trafficking after using these suggestions. Everyone is in the best position to assess their own current level of safety and safety planning should be tailored to their unique circumstance.
General Safety Tips
- Trust your judgment. If a situation/individual makes you uncomfortable, trust that feeling.
- Let a trusted friend or relative know if you feel like you are in danger or if a person or situation is suspicious.
- If possible, set up safety words with a trusted friend/relative.
- One word can mean that it is safe to talk, and you are alone.
- A separate word can mean you are not safe.
- It is also important to communicate what you would like to be done (cease communication immediately, call 9-1-1, meet somewhere to pick you up, etc.).
- Always keep all important documents and identification in your possession. Your partner/employer does not have the right to take or hold your documents without your permission.
- Always keep important numbers on your person, including the number of someone you feel safe contacting if you are in trouble.
- Make sure that you have a means of communication (cell phone or phone card), access to your bank account, and any medication that you might always need with you.
- If you think you might be in immediate danger or you are experiencing an emergency, contact 9-1-1 first.