Know the Signs of Human Trafficking

Human Trafficker

Grooming Signs

Human traffickers use any tool available to them to connect with potential victims. Contrary to popular belief, these predators rarely kidnap victims, but rather employ psychological manipulation to get what they want. The following are some of the signs of grooming for human trafficking employed by traffickers.

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#1 The Hunt Begins

Targeting a Victim

Human traffickers use any tools available to them to make a connection to potential victims, such as social media, video gaming consoles, and chat rooms.

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#2 Scouting Victims

Ideal Characteristics

The traffickers often search for specific characteristics that make a victim the most vulnerable. This includes emotional neediness, low self-confidence, and economic stress.

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#3 Manipulation

Gaining Trust

While looking for the role they can play in a victim's life, traffickers work to obtain trust from the victim through casual conversations over weeks and sometimes over months. Traffickers also send their current victims to interact with potential victims in order to gain trust. These girls essentially act as scouts for the trafficker.

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#4 Dependency

Filling a Need

The traffickers utilize the information they gathered to fill a role in the victim's life. Through gifts, love, friendship, drugs, or alcohol, traffickers force the victims into a dependent relationship.

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#5 Trapping the Victim

Forced Isolation

With their new role in the victim's life, traffickers wedge themselves between the victim and those closest to them--their friends and family.

Beer bottle, cash, pills icon

#6 Abusive Behavior

Maintain Control

The traffickers claim a service they offered must be repaid (providing drugs, alcohol, car rides, or cell phones, for instance). They typically demand sex as payment. Then, through threats, violence, fear, or blackmail, the traffickers maintain full control over the victim.

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The Four Stages of Grooming

The ultimate goal of a human trafficker is to gain access and the trust of a potential victim. Sometimes this takes place over weeks or months. ⁠⠀
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The UK nonprofit organization Barnardo’s created a model called the ‘Grooming Line,’ which identifies the different tactics a perpetrator may use to groom someone. ⁠⠀

1. The Targeting Stage
Observing the target
Selection of victim
Befriending the victim, being nice, giving gifts, taking an interest, giving compliments, etc.
Gaining and developing trust
Sharing information about a target amongst other predators
2. Friendship Forming Stage
Making the victim feel special
Giving gifts and rewards
Spending time together
Keeping secrets
Being there for them
'No one understands you like I do'
Being their best friend
Testing out physical contact, accidental touching
Offering protection
3. Loving Relationship Stage
Being their boyfriend/girlfriend
Establishing a sexual relationship
Lowering their inhibitions - eg. showing them pornography
Engaging them in forbidden activities - eg. going to clubs, doing drugs, drinking
Being inconsistent - building up hope then pushing them away
4. Abusive Relationship Stage
Becomes an 'unloving' sexual relationship
Withdrawal of love and friendship
Reinforcing dependency on them - stating the victim is 'damaged goods'
Isolation from family and friends
Trickery and manipulation: 'You owe me'
Threatening behavior
Sexual assault
Making them have sex with other people
Giving them drugs
Playing on the victim's feeling of guilt, shame, and fear
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Recognizing grooming behaviors early can mean averting potential disaster. It is paramount that the public, and parents and guardians in particular, remain educated not only on the tools and apps children are using every day, but also on how to recognize grooming behaviors and safely navigate the internet.

To learn about how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, click here

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