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Spot the Series – Signs / Risks / Methods
September 21, 2021 

Spot the Signs – Key Points and Ideas:

1. Lack of trust and difficult behaviour as signs of MSHT

Trafficked persons do not trust easily and will often present with a different story or stories from the actual circumstance of their situation. They will seek information for “someone else” or about hypothetical/what if situations to find out how helpers will react and what we can do. It is important that we take in the story and journey as they share it in layers without judgement and allow for the story to change. It is also important to be consistent and direct in our response.

2. Being accompanied by or controlled by the trafficker

The trafficker may hang around in the lobby or parking lot when the potential victim comes for appointments, prevent them from attending important meetings (legal, medical) and programs for support (at social service agencies) which tends to create an increased level of dependence on the trafficker. The potential victim may show signs of being afraid or nervous, not wanting to upset the trafficker accompanying them, always deferring to what the trafficker wants, making excuses for their controlling behavior, and/or minimize injuries the trafficker may have caused the victim. It is important to try to provide opportunities for private discussions to help the potential victim feel comfortable and safe enough to disclose more about what they really need help with – away from the control of the trafficker.

Spot the Methods – Key Points and Ideas:

1. Recruitment through Family Members

Recruitment through family members is not just happening in Global South countries and/or in families struggling with issues of poverty. It is happening here in Canada and Bermuda. Recruitment for modern slavery and human trafficking can and does happen in all ethnic group, genders, economic classes, and crosses all geographic lines.

2. Recruitment through Cell Phones

The era of cell phones has changed allowing for easier access to children and to be used as a tool by traffickers and exploiters. A child and/or youth with two cell phones can be an indicator as the second phone could be used for staying in contact with their trafficker.

3. Recruitment through Relationships

Through a relationship (boy / girlfriend, friend, peer) the trafficker will show them attention, maybe give them gifts, and slowly ease them away from their family and friends. School attendance may drop, marks may start to slide, appearance may change, and mood swings may develop. It is very important to make sure that you notice changes like these especially in young teens.

4. Recruitment through Promise of Glamour

At colleges and universities, students may be promised a weekend of fun and “parties” that could result in the trafficker drugging the potential victim for the night or the weekend, being sold, and then returned when the weekend is over. The victim knows something happened but doesn’t remember and may be too embarrassed or ashamed to say anything. We need to teach young adults to stick together and be aware of the signs that a situation may not be what it seems.

Spot the Risks – Key Points and Ideas:

1. Lack of Strong Positive Relationships

A lack of strong positive friends, role models, influences and healthy activities can lead to isolation as there is an absence of positive social supports and supervision.

2. Lack of a Caring, Local Community

We need people in our communities to care and actively engage in finding and being the solution. Victims are real people with real trauma and need real help – be a part of the solution.

3. Substance Dependency

A trafficker will introduce and leverage a substance addiction against a potential victim, creating dependency upon the trafficker. A trafficker may force drugs or alcohol on an individual to make them more compliant. But the reverse is also possible: the trafficker can refuse to supply the drugs to force the individual to go into a painful withdrawal process as another means of control and to gain compliance.

4. Mental Health Challenges

Traffickers may use a potential victim’s mental health challenges against them saying that because of their history no one will believe them even if they disclosed or reported their situation. They may also deliberately set up situations to create more anxiety or dissociation so the only person who will “listen” to them is the trafficker.

What Should We Do If We Spot Signs, Risks, and Methods?

Put safety first both for the potential victim and yourself, consider what your instincts are telling you, and involve others (supervisor, law enforcement, agency that works with MSHT). Call Canada’s National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010 – they are there to help walk through these situations and direct callers to resources. 

As an employee and volunteer, safety in all situations is key. Safety plans for the individual and for a staff member are extremely important – make sure you follow your agencies protocols. Never go into a situation alone - you don’t know who will be there. Make sure someone else knows exactly where you are and that you are not putting yourself in danger. Notify the Police and/or Emergency Responders if you suspect a trafficking situation – you are not the police and should not be taking on this role. Never give out your home phone number and home address. 

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