In 2019 alone there were 22,326 victims and survivors of human trafficking. Here's what to look out for and here are some of the biggest myths.

How many times have you seen a post on social media stating that a friend of a friend was followed out of a store by a suspicious person or persons? The post usually says or implies that suspicious activity is somehow tied to human trafficking. Probably more times than you can count. The truth is while those suspicious individuals may have been up to no good, that is not the method used to enslave individuals into being trafficked. That is not to say that under no circumstances has that happened, it's just not the type of activity law enforcement and survivors have identified as being a typical method.

As part of the effort to raise awareness of the modern-day form of slavery, Governor Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed January 2021 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Michigan.

Human trafficking happens to children, women and men every day in our country and around the world,” said Governor Whitmer. “It is often a hidden crime that can take different forms including sex trafficking, forced labor and almost always involves the exploitation of our most vulnerable. I hope this month serves as a reminder and opportunity for each of us to learn about prevention efforts and ways to support survivors and their families. If you see something, speak up and contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. Your call could save a life.

According to PolarisProject.org, the average age of victims of sex trafficking is 17-years-old while the average age of labor trafficking is 22-years-old for when it began. How did the victims end up in these situations? Let's take a look below at the biggest risks.

Top 5 Risk Factors/Vulnerabilities for Trafficking Victimization

SEX TRAFFICKING:

  • Substance Use Concern 510
  • Runaway Homeless Youth 473
  • Recent Migration/Relocation 416
  • Unstable Housing 366
  • Mental Health Concern 334

LABOR TRAFFICKING:

  • Recent Migration/Relocation 2,364
  • Unstable Housing 91
  • Criminal Record/Criminal History 90
  • Physical Health Concern 53
  • Substance Use Concern 32

No reasonable person would voluntarily choose this way of life. So how did they become a victim? More than likely someone they know and trust.

Top 5 Recruitment Tactics

SEX TRAFFICKING:

  • Intimate Partner/Marriage Proposition 1,067
  • Family 981
  • Job Offer/Advertisement 515
  • Posing as a Benefactor 438
  • False Promises/Fraud 353

LABOR TRAFFICKING:

  • Job Offer/Advertisement 2,557
  • False Promises/Fraud 805
  • Smuggling-Related 221
  • Family 168
  • Posing as a Benefactor 132

So why do the victims stay?

Top 5 Forms of Force, Fraud and Coercion

SEX TRAFFICKING:

  • Induces/Exploits Substance Abuse Issues 1,898
  • Physical Abuse 1,780
  • Sexual Abuse 1,184
  • Intimidation - Displays/Threatens Weapons 1,102
  • Emotional Abuse - Intimacy Related 1,019

LABOR TRAFFICKING:

  • Withholds Pay/Earnings 2,279
  • Excessive Working Hours 2,043
  • Threat to Report to Immigration 1,866
  • Verbal Abuse 1,640
  • Withholds/Denies Needs 1,254

Here are signs to look for in identifying someone being trafficked.

If you suspect something is wrong, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there bruises or other signs of physical abuse?
  • Are there signs of psychological abuse?
  • Is the person submissive or fearful?
  • Is the person being controlled?
  • Is the person being deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities?

If you are a victim of human trafficking or have identified someone you think may need help, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at: 888-3737-888. This is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, every day of the year.

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