Hollywood portrayals of sex trafficking tend to depict women who have been either picked up off the street or conned into traveling across the ocean in a shipping container only to be chained to their beds, starved, tortured, and beaten upon arrival. We are lead to believe that mysterious strangers with grand proposals or dark villains prowling the streets at night are inherently the enemy. We’re left with a renewed reassurance in the old “stranger danger” narrative of our youths and so are free to go about our daily lives free of concern.
In most cases however, the romanticized on-screen image fails to meet up with the harsh reality of sex trafficking. The reality of sex trafficking is that any person could potentially fall victim and the perpetrator is most often someone deeply trusted by the victim. The sex trafficker or pimp uses a system of calculated grooming to build up a potential victim’s trust and dependence on him or her, isolate her from her family and friends, instill fear at the prospect of leaving, and ultimately exploit her for financial or personal gain.
Ways to Spot Potential Sex Trafficking Victims
Sex traffickers make it their business to keep a tight hold on their victims through force, psychological manipulation, isolation, and maintaining complete control over the victim at all times. Victims are left with very few resources and nowhere to turn so it often falls to competent, good hearted individuals to notice the signs and speak up for victims to get the help they need. Here are some indicators of potential sex trafficking.
- 1. The potential victim shows signs of overt physical abuse and/or neglect such as burns, bruises, cuts, malnourishment, and physical exhaustion.
- 2. Poor physical and sexual health can be a sign of trafficking. Untreated STIs, malnourishment, poor dental health, etc. can all be causes for concern.
- 3. Traffickers often brand their victims with tattoos or other forms of branding of symbols, bar codes, or names.
- 4. Older and overly controlling “boyfriends” are sometimes indicators that a girl or young woman is a victim of human trafficking. Take especial note if the woman seems intimidated or afraid of the boyfriend.
- 5. Traffickers will often maintain control by keeping any money and identifying documents from victims. If a girl needs to ask her boyfriend or older male friend for her own documents, this may be a sign of trafficking.
If you suspect sex trafficking call report to police or contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.