Identifying and Responding to Human Trafficking

“. . . the injustice of modern slavery and human trafficking still tears at our social fabric. During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we resolve to shine a light on every dark corner where human trafficking still threatens the basic rights and freedoms of others.”   -Presidential Proclamation, 2016

Although it seems like human trafficking and sex tourism should not exist in this day and age, it is still a very prevalent issue across the world. In response to Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we want to share an overview on how to identify and respond to human trafficking, which is available in our Child Sexual Exploitation Quick Reference.


Trafficking victims, mostly made up of women and children, typically come from less economically advanced countries. Thus, a common characteristic of victims are illiteracy and the inability to speak English. Other characteristics include fatigue and withdrawal due to working long hours for little to no salary and fear of employers.

Employers who hold trafficking victims usually operate underground in private homes or back rooms.

There are special at-risk groups of human trafficking victims, which include those who self-identify as gay and those who cross international borders in pursuit of alcohol, drugs, or sex.


Human trafficking crimes must be accurately identified so victims can receive specialized assistance, which can be difficult to do if victims resist help from law enforcement. Victims are often brainwashed that there is no help for them and in response they sometimes lie or attempt to mislead investigators during formal questioning. If victims resist answering, it is important for law enforcement and other professionals to reassure victims that they are not in trouble.

Victims of violent crimes are handled separately from victims in immigration and other cases. The Trafficking Victim Protection Act gives victims special status and they are streamlined through government channels to receive immigration benefits, psychological counseling, employment authorization/training, housing and food assistance, medical care, and other benefits, temporary during investigation. However, special status is not tied to successful prosecution.

Many victims whose cases are resolved have options they never had before, making them less vulnerable to re-victimization and experience a sense of relief.

If you or someone you know has information on human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Center. For more information on what we do, check out our website or subscribe to our newsletter.


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