Take a closer look at the signs of modern slavery

Published March 13, 2023

By Leif Coorlim and Woojin Lee, CNN

An estimated 12 million children are trapped in some form of modern-day slavery. Would you know how to tell if a friend or acquaintance was in trouble?

Answer these questions to find out more about the signs of slavery and learn what to do if you suspect it’s taking place. It’s important to remember that even if you spot some of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is being trafficked.

A student in class sits in the back and never raises their hand. Which of these other behaviors might also be considered warning signs for slavery?

If someone appears afraid to interact with others, or if they appear to be under the control of someone else, there is a chance they’re being exploited. Traffickers will often threaten their victims, and they may be too afraid to come forward for fear of retribution.

A young person shows up with a new tattoo unexpectedly and doesn’t want anybody to see it. What kind of images might indicate this tattoo was done against his or her will?

Traffickers often tattoo their own names on victims, signaling the person is their property. Other suspicious tattoos can include a crown with the trafficker's initials, or currency symbols that include money bags, dollar bills or dollar signs. Be advised, just because a person has these tattoos, it does not necessarily mean they are a victim of trafficking.

Only women and girls can be victims and survivors of sex trafficking.

Men and boys can also be targeted by sex traffickers, but they are less likely to identify as victims. LGBTQ boys and young men are considered particularly vulnerable to trafficking.

Which of the following statements is most likely to be true?

A pervasive myth about human trafficking is it involves kidnapping or physical force, when in fact, many traffickers prefer to use psychological tactics such as fraud or manipulation to gain control of their victims. Often times, the trafficker is someone the victim knows such as a friend, family member or romantic partner.

Which of the following is NOT considered a warning sign of human trafficking?

Other potential warning signs include showing signs of physical injuries and abuse, lacking official identification documents, and not being allowed in public alone, or to speak for themselves.

What should you do?

Remember, even if you spot some of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is being trafficked. But if you do suspect a trafficking situation is taking place, do not confront the perpetrator or attempt to rescue a potential victim — instead, call emergency services, alert school authorities or contact an organization that specializes in anti-trafficking work.

You can find a list of organizations on our website or reach out to the human trafficking hotline in your country. A country-by-country directory can be found here: https://globalmodernslavery.org/

You can help end modern slavery by sharing the signs with your friends.#MyFreedomDay