Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is defined as the transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing or obtaining of another person for transport for the purposes of forced labor, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation using force, fraud and/or coercion.  Any minor who is induced to perform commercial sex acts is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether there is force, fraud or coercion.  Florida is third in the US for reported human trafficking cases.

Who is Most Vulnerable?

Anyone can experience trafficking in any community regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Traffickers can be family members, acquaintances, pimps, employers, smugglers, or strangers, and not all traffickers are adults.  Traffickers recognize and take advantage of people who are vulnerable.  People may be vulnerable to trafficking if they:

  • Have an unstable living situation

  • Have previously experienced other forms of violence such as sexual abuse or domestic violence

  • Have run away or are involved in the juvenile justice or child welfare system

  • Are undocumented immigrants

  • Are facing poverty or economic need

  • Have a caregiver or family member who has a substance use issue

  • Are addicted to drugs or alcohol

Traffickers may target minor victims through social media websites, telephone chat-lines, after-school programs, at shopping malls and bus depots, in clubs, or through friends or acquaintances who recruit students on school campuses.  The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.

Red Flags to Look For

Signs that a child is being groomed or is a victim of human trafficking can include:

  • Spending a lot of time online

  • Making calls to unknown numbers

  • Minimizing the screen or turning off the monitor when you enter the room

  • Developing a relationship that seems too close with someone they know solely on social media/video games

  • Signs of abuse

  • Receiving gifts or suddenly having money

  • Reproductive health problems

  • Substance use

  • Social isolation

  • Drop in grades

  • Frequently running away from home 

  • Depression, fear, sleep problems, eating disorders

  • Clothing not suited to the weather

  • Tattoos, burns, or scarring to indicate branding

  • Being accompanied by another person who answers for them, preventing them from speaking freely

How to Report

The safety of the public as well as the victim is paramount. Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to any suspicions. It is up to law enforcement to investigate suspected cases of human trafficking.  If you believe you are a victim of Human Trafficking or suspect an adult is a victim of human trafficking, please visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline, or call them at 1-888-3737-888. If you suspect a child is a victim, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.

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