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Section 3
Identifying the Warning Signs of Human Trafficking
in Health Care Settings for Adults and Minors

Question 3 | Test | Table of Contents

Learning the signs and indicators of human trafficking is the first step in being able to identify someone as a potential victim of human trafficking and potentially save a life. It is important to keep in mind that the presence or absence of indicators are not necessarily proof that someone is a victim of human trafficking, and not all indicators may be present in every situation involving human trafficking (U.S. Department of Education, 2014).  

You can do your part in helping law enforcement rescue victims of human trafficking by being able to recognize the warning signs of human trafficking that help in identifying victims as well as reporting tips. Victims will then be connected to services such as medical and mental health care, shelter, job training, and legal assistance that will help to restore their freedom and dignity. Remember that you should not at any time attempt to confront a suspected human trafficker or alert the victim to your suspicions of human trafficking, both your safety as well as the safety of the victim is paramount (U.S. Department of Homeland Security).

The following is a list of common indicators to be able to recognize human trafficking (U.S. Department of Homeland Security) (U.S. Department of Education, 2014):

Control & Medical Indicators:

  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden change in their behavior, attire, or relationships with family and friends?
  • Does the person have lack of control over his or her money, schedule, and/or proof of identification or have few or no personal possessions?
  • Does the person often seem to be in the company of someone to whom he or she defers or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, for example, where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person show signs of psychological coercion, such as depression, anxiety, and/or appear to be overly submissive, fearful, nervous/paranoid, or timid?
  • Has the person been threatened with deportation or law enforcement action?
  • Does the person show signs of mental, physical, or sexual abuse, including bruises, cuts, burns, scars, mutilations, physical restraints, confinement, or torture?
  • Is the person being prevented from or limited in providing his or her own medical history?
  • Is the person suffering from urinary difficulties, pelvic pain, pregnancy, or rectal trauma?
  • Is the person experiencing chronic back, hearing, cardiovascular, or respiratory problems?
  • Does the person have poor eyesight or other eye problems?
  • Can the person freely contact their family or friends?
  • Is the person able to attend social events or religious services?
  • Does the person appear to be disoriented or in a state of confusion?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Does the person have tattoos or other branding marks?
  • Is the person engaged in commercial sex acts or being forced to perform sexual acts?
  • Does the person appear to have substance abuse or addiction problems?

Living Conditions Indicators:

  • Does the person appear to be homeless or living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they are living? Are there any unreasonable security measures?
  • Does the person show signs of poor health, evidenced by sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, dehydration, sleep deprivation, or serious medical or dental problems?

Travel Indicators

  • Does the person know where his or her final destination or how they will get there?
  • Does the person know the person that he or she will be meeting at that final destination?
  • If the person is a child, are they traveling with someone who does not seem to be their real parent or guardian?

Labor Indicators:

  • Does the person work long and/or unusual hours?
  • Was the person recruited by the trafficker for one purpose and then forced to engage in another job?
  • Is the person’s salary being used to pay off a smuggling fee?
  • Has the person been forced to perform sexual acts, or if a juvenile, engaged in commercial sex?

    Recognizing and Addressing the
    Needs of Sex Trafficking Victims


Faces of Human Trafficking
Identifying, Serving, Supporting

- Office of Justice Programs. (2015). Faces of Human Trafficking Identifying, Serving, Supporting. U.S. Department of Justice
Reviewed 2023

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Baird, K., McDonald, K. P., & Connolly, J. (2020). Sex trafficking of women and girls in a southern Ontario region: Police file review exploring victim characteristics, trafficking experiences, and the intersection with child welfare. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 52(1), 8–17.

Mumey, A., Sardana, S., Richardson-Vejlgaard, R., & Akinsulure-Smith, A. M. (2021). Mental health needs of sex trafficking survivors in New York City: Reflections on exploitation, coping, and recovery. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 13(2), 185–192.

Rafferty, Y. (2018). Mental health services as a vital component of psychosocial recovery for victims of child trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 88(3), 249–260.

What are four control and medical indicators that a victim of human trafficking may show or have? To select and enter your answer go to Test

Section 4
Table of Contents