Hidden in Plain Sight
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
The National Hotline for Human Trafficking reports N.C. ranks in the top 10 states in the number of
trafficking reports. Since 2007, the NHTH has identified 2,949 victims of human trafficking in the state.
Click the link here to see the 2017 NC State Report from the NHTH:
People who are exploited victims of sex trafficking are in front of the public eye and in all arenas of life.
Awareness and education of the general public and of professionals who may encounter victims in the
course of their jobs is also vital. Examples include, construction sites, restaurants, elder care centers, nail
salons, agricultural fields, hotels, doctor’s offices, etc. Do not assume you will not have contact with
someone who is being exploited sexually. They are hidden in plain sight. The more eyes and ears we
have looking for victims, the more victims can be rescued and restored. The more eyes and ears we have
looking for victims, the more victims can be rescued and restored.
Be Aware… Know the Signs…Report
Traffickers seek to groom and exploit boys and girls, men and women who are powerless, emotionally
needy, have low self-confidence, or economic stress. It may be someone who has problems at home
and/or feels out of place.
It is also not just their current status that counts. It is potentially what has shaped the individual
psychologically in their past. There may be a history of neglect, and forms of sexual, physical, emotional,
and spiritual abuse. They may be from chaotic and loose families or strict and rigid families.
The trafficker gains trust through conversations with the victim or their parents directly. Traffickers can
fit in quite well with adults. Once information is gathered about the victim’s life, they begin to fill that
need to gain a sense of trust and acceptance from the victim. It could be as simple as being a friend,
buying gifts, beginning a love relationship, offering them a job, or helping them obtain drugs and alcohol.
The trafficker then makes time to be alone with the victim in some way and in so doing begins to have a
major role in the victim’s life. This frees them to isolate the victim from friends and family. Traffickers
then dehumanize their victims by their feelings of self-worth. They may instill fear with the threat of
shame or embarrassment, eroding the victims trust in other people so that the victim thinks only the
trafficker cares for them. Victims are given false hope with promises that seem to answer their deepest
insecurities. Eventually, the trafficker demands payment for such attention, usually in the form of forced
sex. The tables have turned, and the trafficker uses control through threats, violence, fear, and blackmail
to keep the victim in bondage.
Sex trafficking and grooming happens right in front of the public eye and in all arenas of life. Examples
include, construction sites, restaurants, elder care centers, nail salons, agricultural fields, and hotels. Do
not assume you will not have contact with someone who is being exploited sexually. They are hidden in
plain sight. Be aware of your profession and environment when assessing. Below are some of the signs
to look for and questions to ask someone. Even if you ask, they may not answer due to the fear of
consequences on them or their loved ones, etc. Should you suspect or know of someone who is being
exploited, help lines are offered below.
Warning Signs for Adults
Poor living conditions
Living with employer
Multiple people in cramped space
Inability to speak to individual alone
Answers appear scripted and rehearsed
Employer is holding identity documents
Submissive or fearful
Unpaid or paid very little
Third-party control of schedule and social interaction
Isolation from community, family, friends
Evidence of violence: bruising, swelling, scarring
Tattoos or branding
Sexually provocative clothing that is inappropriate for the situation or weather
Frequent movement/erratic schedule
Inability to speak English
Identification documents in the hands of a third party
Lack of knowledge about the community
Malnutrition, dehydration, exhaustion
Dizziness, headaches, memory loss from traumatic brain injury
Untreated chronic disease, dental or visual problems
Chronic back pain, muscle strains, cardiovascular and respitory issues related to exposure to chemicals,
serious industrial industry.
Warning signs for children:
Changes in their school attendance habits, appearance, socio-economics, friend groups, interests, school
activities, vocabulary, demeanor, attitude and sexual behavior
Luxury items like manicures, designer clothing, purses, etc. without an explainable source of income
Getting into trouble in the company of older teens or adults
Sexually provocative clothing
Tattoos or branding
Hotel key cards
Refillable gift cards
Multiple phone or social media accounts
Lying about the existence of those accounts or refusing parent access to those accounts
Sexually provocative pictures on the phone or online accounts
Unexplained injuries: bruising, swelling, redness, cigarette burns
Claim of an older boyfriend/girlfriend
Lack of ID
Multiple runaways in a short period of time
Submissive or fearful
Unpaid or paid very little
Under 18 and in prostitution
Questions to ask someone suspected of exploitation:
If you have the opportunity to speak with a potential victim privately and without jeopardizing the
victim’s safety because the trafficker is watching, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on
the red flags you became alert to:
Can you leave your job if you want to?
Can you come and go as you please?
Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
Has your family been threatened?
Do you live with your employer?
Where do you sleep and eat?
Are you in debt to your employer?
Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?
Where to Get Help
If you believe you have identified someone still in the trafficking situation, alert law enforcement
immediately at the numbers provided below. It may be unsafe to attempt to rescue a trafficking victim.
You have no way of knowing how the trafficker may react and retaliate against the victim and you. If,
however, you identify a victim who has escaped the trafficking situation, there are a number of
organizations to whom the victim could be referred for help with shelter, medical care, legal assistance,
and other critical services. In this case, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline described below.
For urgent situations, notify local law enforcement immediately by calling 911. You may also want to
alert the National Human Trafficking Hotline described below so that they can ensure response by law
enforcement officials knowledgeable about human trafficking.
1-888-373-7888 National Human Trafficking Hotline
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a national 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking
hotline. Call 1-888-373-7888 to report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or request
training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources. The Hotline
is equipped to handle calls from all regions of the United States from a wide range of callers including,
but not limited to: potential trafficking victims, community members, law enforcement, medical
professionals, legal professionals, service providers, researchers, students, and policymakers.
State Attorney General Office – TX