Let’s Learn the Facts this Human Trafficking Prevention Month

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, an important time to educate ourselves about human trafficking and how we can become a part of the fight to end it. While many may believe human trafficking happens somewhere on the other side of the world, trafficking can and does occur everywhere – even right in our own communities. Florida, where Lauren’s Kids is based, is the third largest hub for human trafficking in the United States. For this reason, it is crucial we know the signs of human trafficking and how to A.C.T. when we spot them.   

Children and teens make up nearly half of all victims of trafficking. The best way for traffickers to find vulnerable children or teens is to go where they hang out – both in-person and online (on social media sites, popular games, etc.). Traffickers know what makes a child or teen more vulnerable and groom children to believe their lies; they look for children and teens who are alone, who respond to attention, who are experiencing homelessness, have parents experiencing drug addiction, or who need money. 

A child or teen is very rarely snatched and sold into slavery, and most victims are lured in by someone they identify with. It is estimated that 71% of victims are recruited by someone they know. Traffickers often use “peer recruiters” to first befriend and then entrap a victim. In other instances, a trafficker him or herself builds a familial or romantic (“Romeo pimp”) relationship and coerces the victim into sexual acts (or other forced labor or service) for profit. Often, traffickers will provide victims with alcohol or drugs, or take nude pictures or videos of the victim; these actions will then be used as means to blackmail and control. Coercion can also occur through the use of money, addictive substances, or threats like exposure or violence. 

Parents should be aware of their children’s whereabouts both in person and online, and have regular check-ins with their children and teens, making sure lines of communication are open and safety rules are adhered to. Kids should know that if they ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable they can come to you for guidance and support, no matter what, and that you will help them – regardless of the circumstances. 

The prevalence of social media makes it even easier for a trafficker to groom or “recruit” an individual behind the veil of a screen. Just last month, a young woman recruited six underaged girls over Snapchat for an older man. The man and his accomplice then provided the vulnerable girls with alcohol, vaping cartridges, food, smartphones, high-end purses, and hotel rooms.

“1 in 5 children are solicited sexually through the internet before their 18th birthday.”

Traffickers target those who are vulnerable like young adults, people experiencing housing or financial insecurity, people struggling with substance abuse, or those who have previously experienced other forms of violence such as sexual or domestic abuse.  

Signs a teen, child, or adult may be a victim of trafficking include:

  • Developing a close relationship behind the guise of social media
  • Becoming involved in an overwhelming, fast-moving, and asymmetric (e.g., significant difference in age or financial status) romantic relationship
  • Extreme changes in appearance, mood, and behavior – sneaking out, skipping school, becoming suddenly withdrawn, sudden change in style of dress (wearing long, baggy clothing, or suddenly wearing revealing clothing)
  • Being recruited for a fast-profit employment opportunity that does not include a contract or seems “too good to be true”
  • Receiving compensation in the form of goods like drugs, alcohol, special gifts, or opportunities instead of money 

It can be scary to speak up when we suspect human trafficking, but practicing A.C.T. (Ask, Care, Tell) is a way to show someone you know something is wrong and that you are there to help. 

Ask the person you are concerned about if there is something unsafe going on in their life and if they need help. Show you Care by listening and responding with compassion, not judgment. When someone discloses abuse, you can use supportive statements like “I am so sorry this happened, thank you for telling me.” or “I am here with you, and we can get help.” The last step is to Tell. If you’re only a teen yourself, this could mean going to a trusted adult or making a report. If you’re an adult, call 911 or make a report using the information below. Remember, it is not your responsibility to fix the problem, only to seek help immediately once you know about an unsafe situation – even if the trafficking victim asks you not to.

If you need to get help for someone who you suspect is a victim of human trafficking, consider the below resources: 

  1. Tell a trusted adult 
  2. Call 911 to reach local law enforcement
  3. Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Hotline at 888- 373-7888
  4. Text HELP to “BeFree” (233-733) to be connected with the NHTRC Hotline
  5. Call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873)
  6. Call the U.S. Department of Justice at 888-428-7581

Note: Under Florida law, if you know or suspect a child is being abused, you must make a report to the Florida Abuse Hotline.

This Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and every month for that matter, it is up to us to do our part to prevent trafficking through awareness and education. Combating trafficking is not done alone; it requires all of us to learn the signs, teach our children and teens, and have the courage to take action and make a report when we see or suspect trafficking. Together we can create a world where the abuse and exploitation of children is no longer tolerated. 


For more information on abuse and trafficking prevention, email [email protected]