What to Look For

Survivors of sex trafficking rarely, if ever, self- identify as victims. They have been tricked into their situation and are trapped in a web of confusion and lies. It’s up to us to spot the indicators of trafficking and to report the situation to local authorities. Below is a list of possible indicators that someone may be a victim of sex trafficking. This is not an exhausted list. Every story of sex trafficking is as unique as the young man or woman who lives that story. There are also a number of different types or categories of trafficking and some indicators may be associated with specific types. However, if someone exhibits multiple of the following indicators, we have a good reason to be concerned.

Identifying possible trafficking and making the appropriate reports may save someone’s life.

Please, don’t hesitate!


  • Any minor involved in commercial sexual activity.  (This is sex trafficking and must be reported!)
  • Running away from home, frequent truancy
  • Couch surfing (sleeping over at friends’ houses often)
  • Or isolation from family and friends
  • New expensive items (brand name shoes, clothing, or purses)
  • Carries multiple cell phones
  • Clothing that is dirty or in poor condition
  • Poor hygiene
  • Clothing that is inappropriate for the weather
  • Cutting or self harm
  • The presence of an older controlling female companion or boyfriend
  • Withdrawn demeanor or presence of obvious fear or depression
  • A demeanor that is overly confident, boasting, mocking, or forceful
  • Tired during the day from working during the night
  • Broken English or vocabulary that is not of their age
  • Not being allowed to speak for themselves, someone always talks for them
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Keeps eyes down while in public
  • Being handled roughly or touched inappropriately
  • A demeanor of feeling under surveillance or fear of being watched
  • Branding or carvings11423601_s
  • Gang Tattoos, bar code tattoos, names or symbols related to the pimping culture
  • Bruises and cuts, often in varied stages
  • Heavy make up covering bruises
  • Fearful or unable to make basic decisions (what food to eat, where to sit)
  • Asks permission to use the restroom
  • Malnourished or eats as if they might not eat again
  • Stunted growth
  • Inconsistent or confusing stories
  • Fear, paranoia
  • Doesn’t know where they are (city, state, street)
  • Doesn’t know where they are living
  • Lack of identification or any documents
  • No money or large amounts of cash
  • Scripted answers
  • Lies about age
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Use of language and vocabulary common to the sex industry
  • Mistrust of law enforcement
  • Possession of motel room cards or business cards from escort services or strip clubs
  • Avoids Eye Contact
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Shows signs of restraint
  • Loss of a sense of time
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