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What Is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is defined as, “Activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited such as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor.”

– Merriam-Webster

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  • “Dates” someone much older. Gets lots of gifts from that person. Has to always check in with them often.
  • Their picture is posted on Backpage or other adult sites
  • Engages in sexual activity to have basic needs met: food, shelter, clothing
  • Kicked out by family or run away from home due to complicated family dynamics
  • Carries around hotel room keys

Source: Compiled by members of the Kent County Human Trafficking Task Force


  • Fake ID’s and/or no ID
  • Truancy
  • Lying about age
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor medical history
  • Stunted growth
  • Malnutrition
  • Rotting teeth
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • STDs
  • Consistent need for pregnancy tests
  • Broken bones
  • Multiple abortions
  • Fertility/reproductive health issues
  • Branding
  • Tattooing (specifically of a trafficker’s name)

Source: The Manasseh Project – Wedgwood Christian Services

Common Work and Living Conditions:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior:
    • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
    • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
    • Avoids eye contact

Lack of Control:

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)


  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or of what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

Source: National Human Trafficking Resource Center


If you think you may know someone who is being trafficked or is vulnerable to trafficking, listen to your intuition. Call the Kent County Human Trafficking Hotline (24/7) for guidance and help. 616.726.7777.


  • Keep communication open. Build a relationship, one that the victim knows they can trust.
  • Know your child’s friends
  • Keep your child safe online
  • If something doesn’t seem right, ask


Safety Tips for Victims:

  • Trust your judgment. If a situation/individual makes you uncomfortable, trust that feeling.
  • Keep all important documents and identification in your possession at all times.
  • Keep important numbers on your person at all times, including the number of someone you feel safe contacting if you are in trouble.
  • Make sure that you have a means of communication (cell phone, phone card), access to your bank account, and any medication that you might need with you at all times. Have an extra phone charger on you.
  • Document any unwanted contact by your trafficker (calls, texts, emails, showing up at your work/home) and save any voicemails/texts/emails that are threatening in nature.
  • Have a special signal (lights flicking on and off, code word, code text message, etc.) to use with a trusted friend/relative/neighbor to notify them that you are in danger or a person/situation is suspicious.
  • If you are ever in immediate danger, the quickest way to access help is to call 911.
  • Read additional safety planning tips here

Source: National Human Trafficking Resource Center