Jan. 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, a valuable opportunity to promote understanding about a grave issue that disproportionately impacts women and girls. Human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery, involves using force, fraud or coercion to obtain illegal labor or sex. Knowing the warning signs is crucial in combating this heinous crime, which frequently intersects with mental illness and drug addiction.
Recognizing the Red Flags of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a global problem. Traffickers often exploit vulnerable and marginalized communities like immigrants, runaways and unhoused people.
Identifying human trafficking victims can be challenging because this crime so often goes under the radar. However, some common indicators include the following.
- Appearance of physical abuse: Unexplained bruises, scars or other signs of abuse could be indicators. Victims might also appear malnourished.
- Psychological distress: Victims may exhibit anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms, especially in the presence of their traffickers.
- Lack of freedom: They may have restricted movement or seem unable to speak for themselves when questioned.
- Controlled communication: Victims might lack identification and other forms of documentation, and their communication may seem controlled or monitored.
- Inconsistent stories: Victims might provide unreliable or scripted-seeming stories about their living or working conditions, or avoid answering questions altogether.
- Poor living conditions: Overcrowded, unsanitary or unusual living situations can be a red flag, especially if multiple people share a tiny space.
- Substance use disorders: Traffickers often use drug addiction to control their victims, either by introducing them to substances as a form of manipulation or exploiting existing addictions.
The Intersection of Trafficking and Addiction
In many cases, addiction is a precursor and a result of human trafficking. People living with substance use disorders may be more susceptible, and traffickers may exploit this to exert control. Additionally, victims may turn to substance use as a coping mechanism to endure their exploitation.
Awareness is the first step in combating human trafficking. If you suspect someone may be a victim:
- Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text 233733.
- Encourage awareness in your community.
- Support organizations working to fight human trafficking.
Ending Modern-Day Slavery
At Rising Roads Recovery, we recognize the critical intersection between human trafficking, women’s health and addiction. We pledge to provide treatment and advocacy to help those affected by these intertwined issues. This Human Trafficking Awareness Day, let’s pledge to be vigilant, informed and proactive in the fight against this atrocity.