After nearly getting scouted into human trafficking, I have been interested to learn more about the warning signs if you’re about to be kidnapped and if the person you’ve encountered is one who is involved in this type of criminal activity. Many of the articles I came across only mentioned signs of a person who was already in human trafficking, or human slavery. What I had trouble finding was a list of signs that someone is scouting you out or about to abduct you into human trafficking.
I believe this is far more important to know than anything else (on this topic). Knowing how you can prevent yourself or someone else from being kidnapped and sold into modern slavery can save many lives and help raise awareness of this shockingly common crime.
This article is going to break it all down for you so you can better understand what human trafficking is, how to protect yourself, know the warning signs, what to do and who to call if someone in danger, as well as additional resources I hope you pass around to those you know and love. The more people who learn about this terrible trade, the more lives we can save. I had a close call. I got out of it. I got lucky. But there are thousands of innocent people who can’t say the same or even speak out on this issue.
What is Human Trafficking?
“Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery — a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom.” – Polaris, Freedom Happens Now
Where Does It Take Place?
Before my personal experience, I had little knowledge about this issue. I was unaware it was so common in the United States, and especially in Southern California. I always thought it happened in big cities or foreign counties, such as Europe. I did not know predators sought out victims in the suburbs, but apparently, it does and you’ll be surprised to know where. Here is a list of the top cities in America where human trafficking happens the most.
- Houston, Texas
- El Paso, Texas
- Los Angeles, California
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Chicago, Illinois
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Miami, Florida
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- New York, New York
- Long Island, New York
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Washington D.C.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Richmond, Virginia
- San Diego, California
- San Francisco, California
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Seattle, Washington
- Tampa, Florida
Who is a Target?
In most cases, middle-class women are the primary target for human trafficking. Those who appear to be vulnerable, homeless, or in need of a handout are the most common targets. As stated by The National Human Trafficking Resource Centers, “Victims of human trafficking have diverse socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may be documented or undocumented. Traffickers target victims using tailored methods of recruitment and control they find to be effective in compelling that individual into forced labor or commercial sex. “
For me, I was sitting on the beach having lunch by myself one sunny afternoon in Malibu California and was spotted out by a man in his early to mid-forties. He approached me, attempting to make conversation, then walked away and continued his surfing session. He later returned as he saw I was still there, still alone, and began to ask a little about me.
Signs of Scouting for Human Trafficking
- The abductor approaches you while you’re alone
- They say they are from another city or country
- Their self-description or story is inconsistent
- They pay only in cash and say things like they don’t have a credit card and ask to use yours to avoid being tracked
- Forces you to take drugs or consume alcohol
- Lures you in with friendly conversation
- Shows signs of aggressive behavior
- Verbal or sexual abuse
- They talk about having you come visit their country in the near future
- They deny being married or having a family of their own (this is typically a man who is seeking out a younger woman)
- They make sexual moves on you without your consent
- When they find out you’re not in need of money, a daddy figure, or job their interest shifts
- They seem put off when you mention your family lives nearby
- When you Google their name, and the city of residence, all you find is the exact description, but the photo is someone else entirely. (They use this identity on the move and they will use it on the next innocent person they interact with while on this mission of recruiting those for human trafficking.)
- 80% in the clear: They say they are leaving town the next day and will be away on business for at least a week (if the city they are visiting is one listed above, beware) — If this happens they have had a change of mind and don’t plan on abducting you.
- 90% sure you’re in the clear: They disappear, don’t reply phone calls or texts when you reach out– they have moved on to scouting out someone else
How to Protect Yourself from Abduction
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Carry pepper spray with you on your key-chain
- If you sense you are being chased down, or about to be kidnapped call 911 immediately
- Stay in tune with your intuition, it will not lead you astray
- Mentally prepare yourself to fight off the abductor
- Never reveal private information to a stranger
- Get to a safe spot as soon as possible.
- If you do talk to a stranger, let me know you have friends and family in the area
- Let them know you’re a supporter of guns and the second amendment
- If you’re on a date, never leave the table until dinner is finished to avoid the other person slipping anything into your food or drink
- If you begin to be attacked, make a scene, yell for help, and fight back like your life depends on it (because it probably does)
- Be observant and use your brain (knowledge is power)
- Allow 3 of your closest friends or family members to track your phone via GPS so they know your whereabouts at all times– you can do with on most cell phones and allow a select few to have access to your location for 1 hour, 1 day, or indefinitely
- Don’t let anyone know where you live until you get to know them– so for a date, meet them at a public place for the first few times until you get to know them and feel comfortable
- Stay in contact with friends and family if you’re out and about alone or with someone you don’t know very well
- Always keep your doors locked
- Before walking out of a store or restaurant, have your keys out so you don’t have to try finding them as your walking to the car (abductors love a distracted person)
- Remember what you’ve seen in the movies– that stuff can actually happen and you can use some of the same methods to escape from a bad situation
- If you suffer from trauma or psychological damage post the incident, seek professional help and don’t be ashamed of it. Getting help is a courageous act.
How do you identify a trafficking victim?
There are many examples of red flags or indicators of potential trafficking situations. Just a few include:
- Appearing malnourished
- Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse
- Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement
- Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction
- Lacking official identification documents
- Appearing destitute/lacking personal possessions
- Working excessively long hours
- Living in a place of employment
- Checking into hotels/motels with older males, and referring to those males as a boyfriend or “daddy,” which is often street slang for pimp
- Poor physical or mental health
- Tattoos/ branding on the neck and/or lower back
- Untreated sexually transmitted diseases
- Small children serving in a family restaurant
- Security measures that appear to keep people inside an establishment – barbed wire inside of a fence, bars covering the insides of windows
- Not allowing people to go into public alone, or speak for themselves
Additional Information: Hope for Justice
National Human Trafficking Resource Center:
1 (888) 373-7888
Image via We Heart It