Common indicators of sex and labor trafficking are listed in Figure 2.33 Note that while the two sets of indicators are not identical, they do overlap; indicators are present among both sex and labor trafficking victims in the center of the figure.
Figure 2. Indicators of Child Sex and Labor Trafficking
The indicators in Figure 2 are common in sex and labor trafficking situations. It is important to remember, however, that some students who have been trafficked won’t show any of these signs. In fact, some students affected by trafficking see school as a safe haven where they can participate in normal peer activities and excel in their academic work.
For me, if in my early years teachers would have reported the abuse and neglect I was receiving from my parents, I would have possibly been less susceptible to my trafficker later on in my teens. The sexual and physical abuse as a child left me vulnerable. It literally groomed me for the experience. I was so numb from my previous abusive experiences that the trafficking experiences didn’t seem so painful.
Whether or not strong indicators of trafficking are present, identifying students being exploited can be difficult because students may not readily acknowledge their circumstances. Students may be
- reluctant to disclose the abuse due to shame or fear,
- still under the control of their trafficker, or
- unable to recognize themselves as a victim.34
Knowing that students may find disclosure difficult underscores the need to provide specialized trafficking training to school personnel, especially personnel most likely to see red flags or most in contact with groups of students at higher risk because of their job functions (e.g., specialized instructional support personnel).
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Resources: Common health issues seen in victims of Human trafficking. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/orr/health_problems_seen_in_traffick_victims.pdf; Polaris Project. (2011). Educators and human trafficking: In-depth review. Polaris Project. https:// humantraffickinghotline.org/sites/default/files/In%20Depth%20Review%20for%20Educators.pdf; Polaris Project. (2011). Tools for educators. Polaris Project. https://humantraffickinghotline.org/sites/default/files/Educator%20Assessment%20Tool.pdf; Polaris Project. (2017). The typology of modern slavery: Defining sex and labor trafficking in the United States. Polaris Project. https://polarisproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Polaris-Typology-of-Modern-Slavery-1.pdf; American Counseling Association. (n.d.). Human trafficking awareness for school counselors. Counseling Connection. https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/school-counseling/ ht-awareness-schoolcounselorconnection.pdf?sfvrsn=ba7b562c_2; National Human Trafficking Hotline. (n.d.). Recognizing the signs. https://humantraffickinghotline.org/human-trafficking/recognizing-signs; de Vries, I., Kafafian, M., Goggin, K., Bouchard, E., Goldfarb, S., & Farrell, A. (2020). Enhancing the identification of commercial sexual exploitation among a population of high-risk youths using predictive regularization models. Child Maltreatment, 25(3), 318–327. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077559519889178
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (2020). Child sex trafficking. https://www.missingkids.org/theissues/trafficking#riskfactors