Are you a Victim of Human Trafficking?
If you’ve been forced to work for little or no pay in a job you can’t leave, you might be a victim of human trafficking. This also includes being forced to have sex for money.
Human trafficking is also known as modern slavery or exploitation.
Trafficking victims can be male or female and can be forced to do a lot of different things, for example, cleaning people’s homes, construction jobs, farming, or prostitution (sex for money).
Many women in the United States are forced to work in businesses that claim to be Massage establishments but are really brothels where they are forced to have sex for money.
If are in one of these situations you can get help by calling the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733). Someone will answer the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call whenever you can.
If you are in danger you should call the police by dialing 911.
You need to know that
You are a victim, not a criminal. The police will help you, not arrest you.
You’ll be protected from anyone you think might hurt you.
You don’t have to give evidence in court unless you choose to.
You have rights in this country, even if you are not here legally.
Traffickers lie to their victims and tell them the police will not help them. That is not true.
What happens after you call
The authorities will take you to a safe place.
You will have access to food, medicine, counseling, and legal help. If you are in the country illegally you will have an opportunity to apply for a special visa for human trafficking victims.
You do not have to stay in a terrible situation. Call the police or call the Human Trafficking Hotline. There are many organizations in this country that are dedicated to helping victims of Human Trafficking get their life back.
If you are a victim, or if you know someone that is, the hardest part for them is making the decision to escape from that life. They may feel discouraged because they have been isolated from their family and friends, psychologically beaten down, financially controlled, and physically threatened. Some are even under constant surveillance which makes them feel like escape is not possible, but it is.
As I said, the hardest part is deciding to leave. Once you have done that, it’s just a matter of knowing when to leave and where to go.
Overcoming your fear
Many trafficking victims live in fear that something terrible will happen to them or their families if they try to escape. They feel that way because the traffickers want them to feel that way, they use that fear to keep them from leaving. Statistics show that traffickers do not typically follow through on threats to family members that are not under their direct control, it makes it too hard for them to keep the low profile they need to hide their business in the shadows. The people that are in the most danger from violence from the trafficker are the person they are exploiting. Traffickers work hard to keep their victims under their direct control because they know that once the victim is out the door and away from the trafficker it’s very hard to get them back.
Knowing where to go
Going directly to the police is the safest and smartest move. It is definitely a place where the traffickers will not come after them. If a person shows up at a police station and tells them they are a human trafficking victim the police will be able to protect them and arrange for them to go to a safe shelter where the traffickers will not be able to find them.
If they can’t make it to a police station, a fire station or hospital are good second choices. Most cities require that a fire station be built within 8-10 miles of any residential area, so there is probably one close to them. Going there, identifying themselves as a trafficking victim, and asking to be taken to a shelter or the police is a safe way to put immediate distance between the victim and the traffickers.
On this page, I have included a website with a directory of homeless/emergency shelters in the state of Florida. It covers every county. A trafficking victim in Florida can go to any one of these shelters in an emergency. If it doesn’t have a vacancy they will still be able to provide other services, such as:
Services for your children
Referral and transport to another shelter
Here is the website with the list of shelters in Florida:
If the victim is not going to the police or a fire station she should select the closest shelter on this list and memorize the address and phone number.
Domestic violence shelters
A domestic violence shelter or women’s shelter is a building or set of apartments where abused and battered women can go to seek refuge from their abusers, and traffickers and pimps definitely fall under that category. The location of the shelter is kept confidential in order to keep the abuser from finding the victim.
Domestic violence shelters generally have room for both mothers and their children. The shelter will provide for all the basic living needs, including food and childcare. The length of time the victim can stay at the shelter is limited, but most shelters will also help them find a permanent home, job, and other things they need to start a new life. The shelter should also be able to refer her to other services for abused and battered women in the community.
Be ready to move
Once a person has made up their mind to escape the trafficking situation they need to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. This might be difficult depending on their situation. According to the Polaris Project, most Human Trafficking victims are not kept under lock and key but instead rely on fear, psychological intimation, and economic control to keep their victims prisoner.
If the victim is able to leave, they should plan on leaving as soon as they are able to do so without the traffickers noticing. This may require them to mentally rehearse an escape plan.
The plan should include:
Where to go (Police or Fire Station, Hospital or Shelter)
What route to take and how to get there (walking, city bus, etc)
What to take along. Many traffickers hold onto the victim’s money, identification, and/or immigration papers in order to keep them under their control and to make them dependent on them. If that is the case, the victim should flee the area without regard for those things. Remember, if you go to the police and the police raid the trafficker’s location and find the victim’s ID and papers in the trafficker’s possession that are evidence against the traffickers! So the victim should not worry about leaving those things.
If the victim has a cell phone it should be used to call the police or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (1-888-373-7888). Just keep in mind that the traffickers can use cellphones to locate their victims, there are many apps that can be downloaded to track the location of phones, especially by the person paying the phone bill.
So after the call is made, the phone should be discarded and the victim should distance themselves from it quickly. If the victim has any money at all, an inexpensive “burner” phone can be purchased when convenient to make further calls to the authorities or family.
Since many traffickers do not permit their victims to hold onto the money they will most likely not have much, but what they do have they should keep somewhere they will be able to access quickly when the opportunity to leave presents itself.
If the trafficking victim has children, they should be prepared to leave quickly as well, which might mean preparing a diaper bag or emergency clothing, medicine or other supplies for a quick exit.
Surveillance and recording devices
According to the Polaris Project, some traffickers will use surveillance technology to monitor their victims and listen in on their conversations. They could be using:
Hidden cameras, such as a “Nanny Cam,” covert security cameras, or even a baby monitor to check in on them.
Smartphone apps that enable the traffickers to monitor the victim’s phone usage or track their movements.
Global Positioning System (GPS) devices hidden in their car, purse, on their phone, or other objects they carry with them. The trafficker can also use a car’s GPS system to see where their victims have been.
If a victim discovers any tracking or recording devices or apps, they should leave where they are until they are ready to leave. While it may be tempting to remove them or shut them off, this will alert the traffickers that they are on to them and are thinking about fleeing.
Law enforcement involvement is the best protection
Many trafficking victims are reluctant to go to law enforcement because they fear that they will be punished for being in the country illegally or for committing criminal activities while under the control of the traffickers. Remember that in the eyes of the law the trafficking victim is just that, a victim, and going to the police voluntarily is the best way to prove that any illegal activities that they were part of were not done under free will.
The victim should not be afraid of being punished or deported by the police, that is a lie that the traffickers repeatedly tell their victims to keep them from getting help.
Some victims will want to just escape from the trafficker by going to a shelter or fleeing to another city. The best way to be truly free, without having to live in fear of the traffickers looking for them is to make the traffickers live in fear…by turning them in. If they are busy trying to evade law enforcement they aren’t going to waste time or resources trying to find a victim that they know has gone to the police.
Taking steps to heal and move on
The scars of human trafficking run deep. The trauma of what the victim has been through can stay with them long after they’ve escaped the abusive situation. They may struggle with upsetting emotions, frightening memories, or a sense of constant danger that they just can’t kick. Or you they feel numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. But counseling, therapy, and support groups for survivors of abuse can help them process what they’ve been through and learn how to build new and healthy relationships.
Other Organizations that can help you
They may be reached by:
• Phone: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) it is a 24 Hr Hotline
Safe Horizon helps victims of all forms of crime and abuse regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, location or background. Their website provides the Safe Horizon Anti-Trafficking Program phone number that can be reached during office hours and Safe Horizon’s 24/7 toll-free hotline; operators at the hotline are multilingual. Safe Horizon provides culturally and linguistically sensitive services for victims; provides counseling, support groups, shelter, and housing assistance; makes referrals to other services; works with law enforcement and the criminal justice process, and provides legal representation.
Florida Abolitionist (FA) is a non-governmental 501(c)3 organization established to campaign against modern-day slavery. FA’s approach is a focused strategy to educate, equip, and empower the community to action. FA hopes to end human trafficking in Orlando/Central Florida. Their website provides resources to train the public to know the signs of human trafficking and lists opportunities to get involved whether through training sessions, volunteering, prayer, etc.
The Florida Coalition against Human Trafficking
The Florida Coalition against Human Trafficking is a 501 (c)3 international and domestic anti-trafficking agency that assists victims of human trafficking. This organization works throughout the state and provides the opportunity to contact the organization by email or phone.
BeLoved is a Christ-centered organization that is dedicated to training and developing people and programs for awareness, outreach and aftercare to reach the unmet needs of those affected by commercial sex exploitation.
The Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking
The Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking by the Administration for Children and Families under the US Department of Health and Human Services provides the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline and other helpful materials, posters, and pamphlets to help raise public awareness of human trafficking and to encourage the public to watch for telltale warning signs. The website also specifies how to request assistance for children victims of trafficking, how to become a coalition partner, and provides links to other related websites.
Department of Homeland Security
To Get Help: 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)
To Report Suspected Human Trafficking: 1-866-347-2423
This website provides Anti-Human Trafficking Resources for Victims and is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security. This website provides a toll-free number to report suspected human trafficking or to get help; information about immigrants; workers’ rights; victim assistance programs; and information about local service providers who work with victims of human trafficking.
International Justice Mission
International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. This organization works in 12 different countries. Their website provides questions and answers about the issues with which IJM works, publications, statistics, videos, casework stories, and contact information.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Anti Trafficking Program
This website was designed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to share information about the problem of human trafficking and to provide resources for helping victims of human trafficking, identifying victims, providing information for service providers, and sharing information about child victims of human trafficking.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services Office (uscis.gov)
Offers resources for victims of human trafficking and other crimes and the organizations that serve them. https://www.uscis.gov/
Florida Emergency Homeless and Social Services Directory This website includes a list of HUNDREDS of emergency Homeless Shelters in Florida, broken down by city.
The Florida Dream Center
The Florida Dream Center offers emergency food and shelter to victims of human trafficking. You can call them directly at 727-851-9074 to learn more about their services for human trafficking victims.