warning signs trafficking

How to Spot the Signs Human Trafficking

Human trafficking in New Mexico is a growing concern. The state is part of a known route that includes Denver, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, and Compton. In its most recent Federal Human Trafficking Report, the Human Trafficking Institute ranked New Mexico 23rd in the nation for active human trafficking cases with eight cases and two prosecutions. One of the reasons prosecutions are not higher in these types of cases is because victims who are fortunate enough to escape their captors are too terrified to testify against them. Human traffickers and their victims can hide in plain sight. New Mexicans can help fight against human trafficking in their state by knowing how to spot the warning signs and which agencies to involve if they suspect trafficking.

What is human trafficking?

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking involves using physical force, fraud, or other forms of coercion to get free labor from victims or make them engage in commercial sex acts. Traffickers are manipulators. They might make false promises – such as helping undocumented immigrants become citizens – or use physical force and intimidation to get their victims to do what they want. No community is immune from this horrendous crime. Victims can be any age, gender, nationality, or race. Fear of law enforcement and language barriers can keep some human trafficking victims from seeking help on their own.

Recognizing the key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and removing them from a dangerous situation. All the following warning signs may be present, or only a few. If you suspect human trafficking, never approach the potential victim or their captor. Doing so can put the victim in further jeopardy. Information on how to report suspected human trafficking is included later in this blog. Here are some of the warning signs you should look for to help combat trafficking in your community.

Warning signs of human trafficking

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides several warning signs to help spot human trafficking.

  • Appearing malnourished. Withholding adequate food and water is one of the methods traffickers use to maintain control of their victims. Not only does it make them physically weak and less likely to try to escape, but it also makes them more beholden to their captors since they determine how much – or how little – nourishment they receive.  
  • Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures. These three things may not always signal someone is a victim of trafficking, but they can be strong indicators in those who fall into this category. Victims often are forced to isolate themselves and limit interactions with others for fear someone may catch on to what is happening to them.
  • Showing signs of physical abuse. Bruises, broken bones, and other visible injuries can be signs that someone is being forced into a situation. Physical threats and intimidation are common tactics used by traffickers to keep their victims from seeking help.
  • Lacking official identification documents. While this also can be a sign that someone is an undocumented immigrant, the inability to produce a driver’s license or other form of identification can be a red flag that the person is a trafficking victim. Traffickers try to keep their victims from getting access to any personal identification to keep them trapped in their situation.
  • Using scripted responses during social interactions. Traffickers hide their victims in plain sight. They might force them to work in their public-facing businesses as a form of free labor. To pull this off, they must find ways to strongarm them into not saying the wrong thing when interacting with customers. If you patronize a business and have an interaction with an employee that feels a bit too scripted, it might be a sign of trouble.
warning signs trafficking
Signs of human trafficking can be subtle and easy to miss.

Who is most vulnerable to trafficking?

Human traffickers target certain populations because they are easier to control. Data collected by the Polaris Project indicates people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be trafficked than any other demographic. The group attributes the increased risk to the general trauma, historic oppression, and other societal factors and inequities that these two groups experience. Traffickers are highly skilled at recognizing and exploiting weaknesses in their victims.

Sex traffickers are experts at grooming their victims. They work hard to gain their trust and then create a dependent relationship. They convince their victims that selling sexual services is normal and even necessary. Some victims may even believe they have made the choice to participate in sexual exploitation of their own free will.

How to report suspected trafficking

Never directly approach a suspect victim of human trafficking about their situation. Doing so can further jeopardize their safety. Their abusers often are nearby and may later punish them for your attempts to help.

The U.S. Department of State recommends alerting the nearest law enforcement agency if you become aware of a situation that feels off. Calling 911 is the quickest way to get connected with the appropriate department. You also can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 888-373-7888. This national tip hotline operates 24/7 and offers multilingual operators to callers.

Care Net Pregnancy Center of Albuquerque is a safe space for victims of human trafficking. If you need immediate assistance, stop by any of our locations and ask to speak to one of our caring staff members. No one needs to know the real reason for your visit. As providers of free pregnancy testing, free STD/STI testing, and free limited pregnancy ultrasounds, we see people for many reasons. We can help connect you with the resources needed to free you from your current situation and to ensure those responsible face consequences for their actions.

abusive relationship

How to Escape an Abusive Relationship

Not all relationships are happy and healthy. Every minute in the U.S., nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner. Relationships do not have to get physical to be abusive or harmful. Emotional and verbal manipulation counts and can be more difficult to quantify because many people do not realize it is a form of maltreatment. Individuals in an abusive relationship may think their situation is normal or acceptable, but there never is a reason to tolerate cruelty and mistreatment to maintain a relationship.

Abusive relationship signs

Bruises and physical injuries can be obvious warning signs of an abusive relationship. Some signs are more subtle. If you notice any of these things happening in your own relationship, or that of one of your friends or family members, seek help immediately.

  • Your partner accompanies you everywhere. While it is normal to enjoy doing things together with your partner, it is not OK to never have time alone or out by yourself. Abusive people can be controlling. They try to isolate their victims from others who might spot the signs of their malintent.
  • Your partner frequently gaslights you. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. It can include humiliation and taunting and claims that you are overly sensitive if you react to the behavior. If you find yourself questioning your reality, then you probably are being gaslit.
  • Your partner delivers “love bombs.” Emotional abuse – emotional attacks, judgment, criticism – often is followed by displays of affection such as apologizing, complimenting, and grandiose gifts.
  • Your partner makes you afraid to leave. Making up and breaking up repeatedly with someone can be a fear tactic common to abuse victims. They may lack the resources to leave their abusers or feel their life or the lives of someone they love is in danger if they do not stay.

Other signs can indicate an abusive relationship, such as a normally social person becoming withdrawn or sudden changes in physical appearance (which may be done to please the manipulative partner).

Abusive relationship cycle

There are four stages of the abusive relationship cycle. The first phase involves a buildup of tension between the two people in the relationship. Abusers lash out at their partners in response to external stressors in their lives, such as trouble at work or fatigue. They shift blame for these problems to their partner and take out their frustration on them either verbally or physically.

The remaining three stages include:

  • Acting out. Once the tension builds up, the next stage involves the act of emotional or physical abuse. Abusive partners may hurl insults, attempt to control your behavior, or engage in sexual violence.
  • Reconciliation. Abusers can be charming. It is why so many people in abusive relationships stay. They believe their partners will change or make more of an effort to control their behaviors. Abusers may even have long periods where they are kind and loving with their partners. The devoted behavior never lasts.
  • Calm. This stage requires one or both partners to come up with an explanation for the abuse. Abusive partners might apologize while shifting the blame to others or point to outside influences to explain their behavior. Sometimes they deny the abuse happened or accuse their victims of provoking them. Even if they show remorse and promise it will never happen again, it will. The abusive cycle will start all over again.

Getting out of an abusive relationship

Hoping and praying an abusive partner will change is not the best solution. Victims can encourage their companions to seek help for their behaviors but should not expect that the person will do so. Many abusers refuse to admit they are the problem and can even be triggered by the very suggestion.

Getting out of an abusive relationship is hard but not impossible. Just remember:

  • You are not to blame for your abuser’s behavior (no matter what they say).
  • You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • You deserve to feel safe and happy.
  • Your children (if you have any) deserve to be safe and happy.
  • You are not alone.

Comfort and guidance for abuse victims

Abuse victims can struggle with the decision to stay or leave their relationships. Care Net can help. We do more than offering help for unplanned pregnancies and STD/STI testing. Our caring staff provides the comfort and guidance abuse victims need to make the choice that is right for them. Contact us today to schedule a confidential appointment to discuss your needs.

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