What Should I Do If I Think Someone Is a Victim of Human Trafficking?

If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, it’s important to do things that will help the situation, not make it worse.

The Center for Prevention of Abuse says that human trafficking victims may not realize they are being taken advantage of. “Human trafficking victims are often physically and emotionally abuse, threatened, lied to, and tricked. Victims are both foreign-born and domestic and are exploited for the purposes of commercial sex and/or forced labor. Many victims don’t identify as victims due to a lack of knowledge about the crime and the power and control dynamics involved.” If you think someone is a victim of human trafficking, here are 4 things you can do to help them.

Dial 911

It sounds like common sense, but if you know a trafficking victim is in immediate danger and needs assistance right away, don’t hesitate to call 911. Law enforcement agencies train their officers to handle human trafficking scenarios, particularly dangerous ones. They are also quick to respond to calls, which is critical if someone’s life is in danger.

Contact the Human Trafficking Hotline

If it isn’t an emergency, you can report suspected human trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. There may be a wait time when you call, so if you’re on hold longer than 5 minutes, try texting “Help” or “Info” to 233722.

Additionally, if you know the suspected victim well, you can pass along this info to them and they can reach out directly to the hotline themselves. They’ll be able to give better details about their situation and the representative can connect them right away with emergency shelter info, counseling, and other helpful resources.

Ask Questions and Write Down Observations

When you suspect human trafficking, there are some questions you can ask. Just be careful to not ask them all at once and try to be tactful and safe with when/how you ask them. You can ask:

  • What type of work do you do?
  • Are you being paid?
  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you or your family been threatened?
  • Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?
  • What are your living conditions like?

If you notice suspicious activity, be sure to write down what you see as well as details such as the date, time, etc. These may be helpful if you have to contact authorities and they ask you for information.

Do NOT Put Yourself in Danger

Human trafficking situations are serious so proceed with caution. If you think someone is a victim of human trafficking, do not attempt to “rescue” them or confront their captors. This could endanger you and the victim, and it usually does more harm than good. Reaching out to organizations specialized in dealing with trafficking scenarios is the best course of action when trying to help trafficking victims escape their situation.

If you want to help trafficking victims, memorize the signs of human trafficking and learn what to do (and not to do) when you suspect trafficking. The more knowledge you arm yourself with, the better prepared you will be to help when the time comes.