How do I Identify a Victim?
Members of the youth-serving community and those who regularly interact with young people are in a unique position to recognize children who may be victims of human trafficking or on the path to becoming victimized. No comprehensive list of all the signs of human trafficking exists, and children who exhibit these signs are not always trafficking victims. However, the following signs are potential indications that a young person may be a victim of human trafficking.
Signs that a youth may be a human trafficking victim:
- Misses school on a regular basis and/or has unexplained absences
- Frequently runs away from home
- Makes references to frequent travel to other cities or towns
- Exhibits bruises or other signs of physical trauma, withdrawn behavior, depression, anxiety, or fear
- Lacks control over her or his schedule and/or identification or travel documents
- Is hungry, malnourished, or inappropriately dressed (based on weather conditions or surroundings)
- Shows signs of drug addiction
- Has coached/rehearsed responses to questions
Additional signs that may indicate sex trafficking:
- Demonstrates a sudden change in attire, behavior, relationships, or material possessions (e.g., has expensive items)
- Is uncharacteristically promiscuous and/or makes references to sexual situations or terminology that are beyond age-specific norms
- Has a “boyfriend” or a “girlfriend” who is noticeably older
- Attempts to conceal recent scars
- Shows a sudden change in attention to personal hygiene
Signs of human trafficking that may be observed during travel:
- Has a travel companion who controls documents, tickets, and movement
- Avoids eye contact with travel companion
- Lacks knowledge of travel plans and destination
If you observe someone, a youth or an adult, demonstrating these signs, it can be helpful to ask clarifying questions in a safe and confidential environment to help you determine whether that person is a victim of human trafficking. The Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Rescue and Restore Campaign Tool Kits provide tip sheets for health care providers, social service organizations, and law enforcement to help identify victims; screening questions to assess whether a person is a victim of human trafficking; information on communicating with victims and understanding their mindset; and more.
If you suspect that someone is a victim of human trafficking, it is important to report your suspicions. Learn more about how to report suspected instances of human trafficking and the federal resources and efforts to support victims, prevent abuse, and prosecute offenders.
The REMS TA Center offers a variety of federal agency partner resources related to planning for adversarial- and human-caused threats, including human trafficking, that may affect school districts, schools, institutions of higher education, community partners, and parents.
The U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Blue Campaign, created this fact sheet, which provides the essential information about human trafficking that is important for school personnel to understand and be mindful of.
This training guide, developed by the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center for the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Safe and Healthy Students, details the intricacies of adult sexual misconduct (ASM) in schools, which can include human trafficking. This guide is designed to be a resource for school officials to be able to identify signs of ASM and outlines the methods for addressing this occurrence.
This webinar from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students, along with its Readiness and Emergency Management Technical Assistance Center, explored the topic of integrating human trafficking with school emergency operations plans (EOPs).
This resource list from the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center provides information on webinars on how to develop high-quality EOPs that can assist with preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and helping children recover from human trafficking–related crimes.