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Peak Travel Season: Could You Spot A Human Trafficking Victim?

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Human trafficking victims get moved frequently. It’s one way their traffickers can keep control over them – the victims often have no idea where they are. They can be transported by bus, train, 18-wheelers, and planes. Could you spot a victim? More importantly, would you know what to do?

CNN’s Freedom Project has the on-going mission to end modern day slavery. They’ve given a list travelers can look for.

1. The person traveling is poorly dressed. (Now, I realize, given the state of our national dress code, which seems to be pajama bottoms and a hoodie, this might be a tough one.) The clothes the person is wearing may be too large or too small. The clothes may be completely “out-of-sync” with their destination: too warm or too cold. A young person may be dressed very provocatively.

2. They have no carry on luggage.

3. They have little or no information regarding their travel plans. They don’t know what their destination is, or even what city they are in now.

4. Tattoos can be a clue, especially on very young people. (Most states don’t allow tattoos on people under 18, although some allow it with parental permission.) These tattoos would look like bar codes with the word “Daddy” or a man’s name on them. They are a reminder to the victim that they are the trafficker’s property.

5. They have no personal effects: no identification or even boarding passes. Those are all in the hands of the trafficker.

6. They speak in a “scripted” manner, giving the same answers over and over.If they do go “off script,” their stories are often inconsistent.  They also seem afraid or furtive. They may not be allowed to go anywhere (even the restroom) on their own.

7. They may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

8. The person may be malnourished, have scars or bruises, and may be traveling with someone much older, whom  they identify as a “daddy,” “boyfriend,” or “friend,” yet they are reluctant to give much information about that person.

So what can you do? Do NOT try to directly intervene; you’ll likely put the person at further risk. You can alert staff; many major transportation carriers now have protocol for these situations. You can contact security and/or 911.  If possible, get as much information as you can, including physical descriptions. You can also call the National Trafficking Hotline at1 (888) 373-7888 if you are in the United States.

Human trafficking is a huge problem. We can fight it, though – one step at a time.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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