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January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Often when women are being trafficked and become pregnant, their traffickers bring them into abortion clinics and sometimes these women even find their way into a pregnancy center. Many pregnancy centers actually have safeguards in place in order to determine whether a woman is being trafficked or otherwise abused. However, it’s important we all know the signs of human trafficking in order to defend both life and human dignity, so here are four signs that someone may be a victim of human trafficking. 

1. Appearance 

Victims often have few possessions and may seem underdressed for weather conditions or have poor quality clothing. It can be something as simple as not having a raincoat in the rain or as drastic as wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt in the snow. Those being trafficked are generally given used clothing and are not well taken care of, though trafficking can also happen in very wealthy communities where a trafficker may buy their victim nice clothes in an effort to appear inconspicuous. 

2. Injuries and Markings

Individuals who have been trafficked may have physical signs of abuse or imprisonment,  such as bruises or cuts. These injuries may be all over the body or they may be particularly pronounced around the wrists or ankles. Some victims may also have tattoos or markings such as a barcode or a dollar sign signifying they are property of a trafficker.

3. Orientation to Their Location 

Victims of trafficking are often shuffled from city to city and might be drugged or blindfolded during transport making them unaware of their location. They may be unable to identify the city they are in or who they traveled with. They may also give short, scripted responses and be unable to answer any questions asking further details about their location, living arrangements, or travel history.

4. Characteristics of Traffickers and Victims

Be vigilant regarding out-of-the-ordinary pairings of people such as a nicely dressed adult and a disheveled or poorly dressed teenage girl or a young male and an infant (these examples are taken from real life cases of human trafficking). Victims are often with someone who may seem to control them, speak for them, or escort them everywhere (even to restrooms).

High Traffic Situations

A great time to be especially alert regarding the potential of human trafficking is while taking any form of public transportation (airplane, bus, subway), at sporting events, and while staying at hotels, motels, or resorts. Did you know sex trafficking spikes each year around the Superbowl? Traffickers abuse their victims by using them to sell sex to the influx of visitors at the biggest game of the year.   Year after year, human trafficking happens all around. Thankfully, businesses, especially in the travel industry, are making efforts to train employees to recognize the warning signs someone may be being trafficked. Other organizations encourage simple tasks like writing or posting the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in bathroom stalls, gas stations, or clothing one may be about to donate. 

How to Help

Human Trafficking happens in all types of communities and all over the world. Know the signs and you could be the key to someone’s freedom. If you ever suspect someone is in danger, being abused, or is being trafficked call 911, report it to the police,  or call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733. 

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Libby writes from the perspective of a trained mental health counselor, mother, and wife. She seeks to defend the preborn using both science and empathy for mothers and babies.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.