Human trafficking is a severe form of exploitation. Sex trafficking occurs when someone is induced, through the use of force, fraud or coercion to engage in a commercial sex act, or when the person who is induced to perform a commercial sex act is under the age of 18. Labor trafficking occurs when someone is recruited, harbored, transported, provided, or obtained, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, to work in situations of involuntary servitude, peonage, or debt bondage. These situations are far more common than imagined. Human trafficking happens in both legal, visible spaces and in illicit and often stigmatized settings. It happens on our streets, at our businesses, and in our homes. It happens right here.
- The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking across the world.
- Human trafficking impacts people from all walks of life, including U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and undocumented people. Since the STOP-IT program's inception, staff has provided social services to over 300 survivors who were forced, tricked or coerced to engage in sex acts or work in a variety of other settings, such as in restaurants, nail salons, factories, private homes, and farms.
How to Identify a Victim
Here are some indicators which suggest a person may be a victim of human trafficking:
- No passport of other identifying documentation (or in the possession of someone else)
- Not speaking on own behalf
- Evidence of inability to move or leave job or take time off
- Unpaid for work or compensated very little
- Lives with co-workers and employer no privacy
- Works off the books in a low-paying job
- Person is under the age of 18 and is involved in the sex industry.
- Person has visible signs of abuse including unexplained bruises, black eyes, cuts or marks.
- Person exhibits behaviors of fear, anxiety, depression or paranoia.
- Person expresses interest in, or is in a relationship with significantly older adults.
- Person has a tattoo or brand and is reluctant to explain it.
- Personal has untreated illnesses or infections, particularly sexually transmitted infections.
- Person is not in control of own money or identification.
- Person displays secrecy of whereabouts after having been open about activities in the past.
- Person keeps unusual hours.
- Person wears new clothes, gets hair/nails done, possesses new material goods with no financial means to obtain these independently.
This list is not exhaustive. One of these indicators on its own may not mean someone is trafficked, but a combination of indicators may amount to a situation of human trafficking.
Questions to Consider
- Is the person accompanied by another person who seems controlling?
- Does the person accompanying him/her insist on doing all the talking or providing information?
- Do you see or detect physical abuse?
- Does the person seem submissive or fearful?
- Does the person have difficulty communicating because of a language or cultural barrier?
- Does the person have any identification?
If you think you know or have met a victim of human trafficking in the Chicago area, call The Salvation Army's STOP-IT program hotline at 877.606.3158. You will speak with an outreach worker who can provide further information and assistance. Your call is confidential.
Do not try to remove someone from a dangerous situation on your own or bring them to your home or place of employment. This can be dangerous for yourself and for the survivor, should the trafficker become aware of your location. Instead, try to connect them to resources, only if and when it safe to do so. If the person is not interested in getting immediate assistance but is willing and able to take a phone number, write down the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (888.3737.888) for their use when they are ready to exit their situation. If the person states that they do not need help and/or are not interested in taking the phone number you are offering, respect that individual's wishes and walk away.
I Want to Help I Need Help