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January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month — a time to raise awareness of the persistent issue of human trafficking. The effort this month is specifically dedicated to awareness and prevention of the illegal practice.

It’s important to understand that human trafficking isn’t only done for commercial sex work — people can be trafficked for labor and domestic servitude as well. However, because of the nature of our work, a lot of the trafficking seen in a Planned Parenthood office is sex trafficking. This type of trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, where the act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform the act is under 18.

Some of the things that can put a person at higher risk of being trafficked are

  • having an adult romantic partner (this only applies to people who are under 18)
  • not having a permanent and safe place to live
  • living with substance abuse disorder
  • history of prior trauma
  • undocumented status

Human traffickers can be a little bit different than what you might picture a stereotypical “pimp” to be like (the way many movies make them look). Traffickers tend to be “Romeo” types, pretending to be a victim’s boyfriend or friend. The relationship might start off with the trafficker showering their victim with attention and gifts, but pretty soon, they become coercive and abusive, forcing or manipulating the victim into sex work.

Many times, the victims might not even see themselves as victims and usually don’t try to get help due to shame, distrust of authority, loyalty to their trafficker, language barriers, fear of arrest or deportation, or other factors.

One of the following signs doesn’t necessarily mean someone is being trafficked, but if many of these signs apply, it should be a red flag:

  • new tattoos/brandings
  • a change in clothing
  • new items with no new income
  • bruises
  • physical exhaustion
  • malnourishment
  • new friends
  • skipping school
  • prepaid credit cards
  • phone calls at strange times of day and night
  • frequent pregnancies
  • frequent STIs (sexually transmitted infections aka STDs)
  • coming home late/not coming home

 

More information on human trafficking can be found through the following organizations:

https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/what-human-trafficking

https://humantraffickinghotline.org/

https://humantraffickinghotline.org/training-resources/referral-directory

To report suspected human trafficking to Federal law enforcement call: 1-866-347-2423

To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline call: 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to BeFree (233733)

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