Quick Guide to Victim Identification

There are some indicators which raise a red flag that a person may be a victim of human trafficking.  You may want to take a second look at a situation in which a person:

  • Is under the age of 18 and is involved, in any way, in the commercial sex industry
  • Has visible signs of abuse: unexplained bruises, black eyes, cuts, or marks
  • Exhibits behaviors of fear, anxiety, depression, or paranoia
  • Expresses interest in, or is in relationship with, adults
  • Shows evidence of controlling relationships
  • Uses language from “the life” (i.e. referring to a boyfriend as Daddy)
  • Has a tattoo that he or she is reluctant to explain
  • Has untreated illnesses or infections, particularly sexually transmitted diseases
  • Is not in control of own money or identification
  • Displays secrecy of whereabouts
  • Keeps unusual hours
  • Wears new clothes, gets hair/nails done, possesses new material goods with no financial means to obtain these independently
  • Is truant or tardy from school

If you think that you may have encountered a victim of human trafficking in the Chicago area, please call the Salvation Army’s STOP-IT program at (877)606.3158.  An outreach worker can provide further consultation and assistance for the victim.

Questions to Consider

The following observations can help you identify victims:

  • Is the potential victim accompanied by another person who seems controlling?
  • Does the person accompanying the potential victim insist on giving information to providers?
  • Can you see or detect any physical abuse?
  • Does the potential victim seem submissive or fearful?
  • Does the potential victim have difficulty communicating because of language or cultural barriers?
  • Does the potential victim have any identification?

For Foreign Nationals:

  • Upon arrival in the U.S. did someone ask you to pay back a debt?
  • Are you doing what you were told you would be doing in the U.S.?

Please note:

  • It is important to talk to potential victims in a safe and confidential environment. If the victim is accompanied by someone who seems to have control over them, discretely attempt to separate the person from the individual accompanying him/her since this person could be the trafficker.
  • If translation is needed, use a trusted interpreter. DO NOT use someone who has accompanied the suspected victim or someone who is conveniently waiting in the lobby.
  • Do not collect more information than you need! In depth interviews with potential victims should be conducted by mental health professionals, law enforcement professionals or legal experts.
  • Do not make promises that you cannot keep. Do not promise that someone will make everything better.  And do not feel the need to “rescue” victims on your own.