What does human trafficking look like?

It may not be visible. It’s likely not obvious. And it probably doesn’t look like what you’ve seen portrayed in the movies or on TV. It can’t be identified by looking for any one “type” of person, but rather by potential risk factors.

THERE ARE SYSTEMIC PROBLEMS THAT ALLOW HUMAN TRAFFICKING TO PERSIST ON A GLOBAL SCALE SUCH AS:

  • Lack of economic opportunity
  • Oppressive political regimes
  • Displacement due to political conflict
  • Displacement due to natural disasters
  • Societal demand for inexpensive products and services
  • Societal demand for commercial sex

THERE ARE ADDITIONAL SOCIAL AND CULTURAL INEQUALITIES, AND CIRCUMSTANCES THAT PUT SOME POPULATIONS AT HIGHER RISK.

These populations include but aren’t limited to:

  • People of color
  • Foreign nationals
  • Undocumented immigrants
  • People with disabilities
  • LGBTQIA+
  • Youth involved in child welfare and/or juvenile justice system

TRAFFICKERS OFTEN TARGET PEOPLE WHO APPEAR VULNERABLE TO EXPLOITATION.

There are many contributing and often interrelated factors that can leave someone vulnerable such as:

  • Poverty
  • Housing insecurity
  • Any unstable living environment
  • Addiction or substance use
  • Lack of support from family, friends
  • Lack of access to services

How does a trafficker operate?

Traffickers represent people of all races, genders and social or economic status. Often a trafficker is someone the victim knows and trusts such as intimate partner relationships, employers, friends, and even family members. Traffickers use force, fraud, and/or coercion to trap their victims. Traffickers also create situations where their victims are dependent on them, making it nearly impossible to escape.

A trafficker might:

  • Make promises of a better life
  • Offer legal status
  • Make threats, become violent

Traffickers have many other methods to control their victims such as:

  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Controlling and monitoring movement
  • Continuing to make false promises
  • Threatening family members
  • Psychological manipulation

Traffickers also create situations where their victims are dependent on them:

  • Withholding basic needs and substances such as food, shelter and health services
  • Putting the victim in a position where they owe their trafficker money (debt-bondage)
  • Confiscating documentation

Does human trafficking happen in certain industries?

Human trafficking can be found in many types of working environments, some are difficult to identify and report.

(This is not a comprehensive list. Learn more on the Resources page.)

How do I know if someone is a victim of human trafficking?

To learn more about the signs of human trafficking and its victims, and ways that you can help, sign up for a training.

What is NOT human trafficking?

Human Trafficking has historically been sensationalized and misrepresented by the media and entertainment industry. It is important for us in Colorado to clearly separate truth from myth so we can better identify, report, and prosecute this crime.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS NOT:

ISOLATED TO WOMEN/GIRLS

Male victims are far less likely to be identified. LGBTQIA+ boys and young men are seen as particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking.

RECRUITMENT OF STRANGERS

Many traffickers are intimate partners, family (even parents), or employers with everyday relationships to a victim.

ONLY A CRIME AGAINST FOREIGN NATIONALS

Although Foreign Nationals are at higher risk of experiencing force, fraud, or coercion, human trafficking can be a crime against anyone.

EASY TO IDENTIFY

Human trafficking is a hidden crime and victims may be afraid to come forward and get help or may not even realize they are being trafficked.

EASY TO GET OUT OF

Some people may wonder, “why don’t they just leave?” but it’s not that easy, due to the level of victimization and control, whether physical or psychological.

SMUGGLING

Human smuggling always involves illegal entry into another country, sometimes across an international border. This is different from the crime of human trafficking.

ONLY SEX TRAFFICKING

Sex trafficking is considered one of the two main forms of human trafficking. While sex trafficking has the most awareness, experts believe all forms of labor trafficking occur more than sex trafficking alone, both in the United States and abroad.

THE VICTIM’S FAULT

A victim may not understand that force, fraud or coercion is being used to exploit them, especially if their trafficker is someone they know and trust. No matter the circumstances, human trafficking is always a crime, and never the fault of the victim.

WHAT CAN YOU DO