Look Beneath the Surface


Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening nearby. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will.  All trafficking victims share one essential experience: the loss of freedom.

Human Trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, widespread throughout the United States today. Trafficking of humans is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, and the fastest growing. Many victims of trafficking are made to engage in prostitution, pornography, or exotic dancing. But trafficking also occurs in the form of labor exploitation, such as domestic servitude or restaurant work, sweatshop factory work, or migrant agricultural work.
Force, fraud, and coercion are the methods used by traffickers to press victims into lives of servitude and abuse:

  • Force- Rape, beatings, confinement
  • Fraud- False offers of employment, marriage, promise of a better life
  • Coercion- Threats, restraint, psychological abuse

Victims of trafficking can be found in:

  • Commercial sex
  • Domestic situations (nannies or servants)
  • Factories
  • Construction
  • Farming or landscaping
  • Fisheries
  • Hotel or tourist industries
  • Panhandling
  • Janitorial services
  • Restaurant services

Victims of trafficking may look like ordinary people you pass by everyday. Victims are young children, teens, men and women. By looking beneath the surface and asking yourself these questions, you can help identify potential victims:

  • Is the person accompanied by another person who seems controlling (possibly the trafficker?
  • Is the person rarely allowed in public (except for work)?
  • Can you detect any physical or psychological abuse?
  • Does the person seem submissive or fearful?
  • Does the person lack identification or documentation?
  • Is someone else collecting the person’s pay or holding their money for “safe keeping”?

Knowing what clues to look for and what questions to ask can help you identify potential victims. If you get the opportunity to speak to the person alone, asking the following questions can help you determine if you may be dealing with a victim:

  • Can you leave your job or a situation if you want?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been threatened if you try to leave?
  • Has anyone threatened your family?
  • What are your working or living conditions like?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Do you have to ask permission to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom?
  • Is there a lock on your door so you cannot get out?
  • Does someone prohibit you from socializing or attending religious services?

Before questioning a person who may be a victim of human trafficking , discretely separate the person from the individual accompanying him/her, since this person could be the trafficker posing as a spouse, other family member, or employer.

If you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 to obtaininformation and to access support services through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). This hotline can help victims safely and securely begin to rebuild their lives by connecting them to basic services including:

  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Immigration assistance
  • Food
  • Employment
  • Legal assistance

Victims of human trafficking who are not U.S. citizens are eligible to receive benefits and services through the TVPRA to the same extent as refugees. Victims who are U.S. citizens may already be eligible to receive many of these benefits.

Understanding the mindset of human trafficking victims is important to helping them restore their lives. Gaining the trust of a human trafficking victims is an important first step in providing assistance. Confidentiality is vital for victims. Consider the following points when helping someone who could be a victim of human trafficking:

  • Many victims do not speak English and do not understand American culture.
  • Some victims do not know what city or country the are in because they are forced to move often.
  • Most victims have a strong sense of distrust because they fear deportation.
  • Many victims do not see themselves as victims and do not realize that what is being done to them is wrong.

Nebraska- Human Trafficking doesn’t just happen in big cities…

  • Non-profit service providers in Nebraska have identified individuals under the age of 17 who have been sex trafficked at least 176 times in 2015.
  • There were on average 45 females advertised in Nebraska on a given day in early summer.
  • Of these, 81% were advertised in more than one city.


For more information about human trafficking visit:

Office on Trafficking in Persons

National Human Trafficking Resource Center