This young girl was 15 years old when she first met her trafficker. She was a typical 15 year old who lived at home and attended high school. She was online using social media when a cute guy contacted her. She was excited because he was a bit older in his early twenties and was interested in her. He told her how beautiful she was and how lucky he was to have met her. She used to study with her friends before, but that seemed boring compared to hanging out with him. After “dating” for a short time, he asked to send some explicit pictures of herself. She was a bit hesitant, but he told her how much he loved her, that any girl his age would do it, and that if he couldn’t be with her he could look at her picture. He wanted to be with her all the time. He bought her new clothes and told her to wear some more make up. This wasn’t her normal style, but she wanted to look pretty the way that he wanted her to. After a month of dating, lavishing her with attention and making her feel like the most important person in his world, he said that he wanted to keep buying her nice clothes and treating her well, but that she needed to help out. He asked her to have sex with a man for money. He told her that it would be just once and that it would be fun. He begged her and she just wanted to make him happy. He gave her a drug that made the whole experience foggy. She didn’t want to do it, but she wanted to make him happy and figured it was just once. But then he kept telling her she had to do it. He took her to a place to get a tattoo. She didn’t want to at first, but he said it was because he was proud that she “was his” and wanted everyone to know she belonged to him. He said if she loved him she would do it. She just wanted to show him how much she loved him. She got mad at him once, but then he put his hands on her and got really scary. He told her that she belonged to him. This became a cycle. He would be physical with her one minute and tell her he loved her the next. She was so confused – he was so different now. She wanted to get out, but didn’t know how, and now she needed that drug he kept giving her, or everything would hurt.
Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act1, sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting a child under 18 years of age for the purpose of a commercial sex act, or any persons regardless of age, by force, fraud, or coercion. A commercial sex act occurs when the sex act is exchanged for anything of value, such as food, shelter, drugs, etc., and is not limited to money. Regardless of whether or not the child has identified a trafficker or has consented to be sold, that child is still a victim under the law, even if a child appears to be willingly engaging in commercial sex. This is in addition to each individual states’ laws prohibiting and penalizing sex trafficking. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the average age of missing children who are exploited through sex trafficking is only 15. Some of the top methods that traffickers use as a form of control is emotional abuse, substance abuse, and dependency. A very common recruitment method used in the United States is false promises of love, attention and affection which makes the child believe they are in a romantic relationship. Perpetrators take advantage of the undeveloped psyche of an adolescent to sexually exploit them for their own gain. It’s not uncommon for girls to be recruited and sold for sex, even while attending school. Some of these girls may not even know that what the trafficker is doing is illegal. It’s important to be aware of the signs and report any suspicions or concerns that a child is being sexually exploited to your local police, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
1 A federal law codified in relevant part in 18 U.S.C. § 1591.
2 While no single indicator confirms the existence of child sex trafficking, several indicators combined can increase the likelihood that a child is being exploited or is actively being targeted and recruited. Victims of child sex trafficking can include male, female, and children who identify as LGBT.
This scene depicts a brother and sister labor trafficked from a rural town south of the border to the United States to work in the agricultural industry. In this scenario, while somewhat impoverished, these siblings live happily with their caring parents. Although the family is content, the parents have always dreamed of a life with more and better opportunities for the future of their children. One day, the parents are approached by a man who had allegedly secured jobs and education for other similarly situated families, in the United States. He promised that with payment from the parents, he could do the same for their children. After paying the recruiters, the brother and sister cross the border from Mexico into the United States and then travel by bus to a farm. Upon arrival, they discovered that they had been deceived. The foreman at the farm forces them to work long hours picking fruit. Because of their small fingers, they along with smaller framed women are seen as being able to quickly pick some of the smaller fruits. The brother and sister are not permitted to continue their education as promised, and are subjected to horrible living conditions, as well as sexually exploited.
Federal law prohibits anyone from obtaining the labor or services of anyone by force, threats of force, means and threats of harm (including financial), or threat of abuse of legal process. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act makes it unlawful to enslave a person in a condition of compulsory service or labor against his/her will through the use of force, threats of force, threats of legal coercion, or by creating a “climate of fear” by any of these means. It is also a violation of federal law to recruit, harbor, transport, or broker a person for the purpose of labor trafficking.5 This is in addition to any applicable state law governing labor trafficking. According to Polaris, the number one ethnicity of human trafficking survivors generally in the United States are Latinos. Polaris has also noted that 36% of labor trafficking survivors encountered in the United States were between the ages of 12-17, and 21% were between 18-23 years old when they were first trafficked. Polaris statistics in 2016 showed that agricultural work comprised the second most prevalent form of labor trafficking in the United States. Many individuals, both children and adults from poorer communities abroad are deceived with a false job opportunity in the United States. They often pay recruiters to facilitate travel into the United States at which time they are exploited in the agricultural industry where they are underpaid, if at all. They are threatened both physically and with legal process, if they attempt to report the crime.
5 Federal statutes prohibit involuntary servitude, slavery, and forced labor. These violations are codified in 18 U.S.C. § 1581, et. seq. The specific violations described here can be found in 18 U.S.C. §§ 1584, 1589, and 1590.
6 The indicators listed here are not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Indicators on this list may not be present in all agricultural trafficking cases but represent only those depicted in this scenario.
In this scenario, this young girl was 16 years old when she first met her trafficker. After years of conflict, neglect, and abuse in a tense home environment, she felt her only alternative was to run away. She was escaping a difficult situation but as a 16-year-old did not have the means to provide for herself (food, shelter and/or safety). Alone and scared at the bus station, she encountered a girl who said she wanted to help her. The girl explained she also had a similar home environment and that she understood. She said that she and her “boyfriend” could help her out. What other choice did a 16-year-old girl alone on the streets have? They seemed nice…at first. They provided her with food, clothing, and a place to live. But the “boyfriend” ended up being a trafficker and after manipulating her with false promises to take care of her, told her she needed to pay him back for all the money he spent on her food, clothes, and housing. He verbally and physically abused his “girlfriend” in front of her, and threatened that he would do the same to her if she didn’t repay him. He said she owed him. She was a 16-year- old runaway. She couldn’t get a job or go to her parents for the money. The only person who had shown her kindness and took care of her when she desperately needed it now told her he needed her help to pay the bills. He then started to sell her for sex and gave her clothes to make her look older. He made his “girlfriend” take her to customers using cabs and ride-share services. His “girlfriend” acted tough sometimes but seemed really scared around him. He said that he could monitor their every move – and that he would kill both of them if they did not return with his money. She doesn’t want to do this, but doesn’t know what to do. She just wants to survive.
Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act3, sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting a minor under 18 years of age for the purpose of a commercial sex act, or any persons regardless of age, by force, fraud, or coercion. A commercial sex act occurs when the sex act is exchanged for anything of value, such as food, shelter, drugs, etc., and is not limited to money. Under the law, a minor is not able to consent to being bought or sold. This is in addition to each individual states’ laws prohibiting and penalizing sex trafficking. According to Polaris, 49% of sex trafficking survivors in the United States were initially trafficked when they were 12-17 years old. Being a runaway was determined to be a top risk factor for being sex trafficked. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) 1 in 7 of the 25,000 runaway children reported in 2017 were likely sex trafficking victims. Individuals being sex trafficked interact with the public at various times in seemingly innocuous situations such as when taking cabs, trains, and buses. It’s important to be aware of the signs and report any suspicions or concerns that an individual is being sexually exploited to your local police, or the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
3A federal law codified in relevant part in 18 U.S.C. § 1591.
4While no single indicator confirms the existence of sex trafficking, several indicators combined can increase the likelihood of sexual exploitation. Victims of sex trafficking can include male, female, and children who identify as LGBT.
This scenario depicts a young woman from the Philippines who finds a job working for a Philippine-American couple in the United States. She first meets her traffickers in the Philippines through a job agency. The traffickers tell her that they are looking for a live-in housekeeper from their home country, who understands their customs and culture. They tell her that they will buy her airline ticket, provide for her housing and living expenses, as well as pay her a good salary. The couple seems really nice, and this seems like a fantastic opportunity to live and work in the land of opportunity, so the young woman agrees. With excitement, she flies for the first time on an airplane and travels to the United States where she is quickly escorted to the traffickers’ house. At the house, the traffickers are controlling and mean. Her passport and cell phone are taken from her, and she is placed in a bare room, with little explanation. She is restricted from leaving the home and is verbally abused for every mistake she makes. She is not given any salary and provided with just the bare necessities. She is told that if she tries to contact anyone for help, the traffickers will call immigration and she will be placed in jail. In a foreign and unfamiliar country, no money, her passport, and all her identification seized, she wants to leave but doesn’t know who to trust or what to do.
Federal law prohibits anyone from obtaining the labor or services of anyone by force, threats of force, means and threats of harm (including financial), or threat of abuse of legal process. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act makes it unlawful to enslave a person in a condition of compulsory service or labor against his/her will through the use of force, threats of force, threats of legal coercion, or by creating a “climate of fear” by any of these means. It is also a violation of federal law to recruit, harbor, transport, or broker a person for the purpose of labor trafficking. The federal law also explicitly criminalizes the act of confiscating or destroying anyone’s passport or other immigration documents in furtherance of the labor exploitation7. This is in addition to any applicable state law governing labor trafficking. According to Polaris, Asians are the second most trafficked individuals in the United States. Moreover, survivors from the Philippines comprise the fourth highest nationality of trafficking survivors in the United States. Job offers are the top recruitment method used by labor traffickers, with false promises and fraud, comprising the second most popular recruitment method. Polaris reported that in 2016, domestic work was the most prominent type of labor trafficking reported in the United States. Victims are usually foreign with language or immigration concerns. After traveling to the United States based on a fraudulent job opportunity, the traffickers will strip the individuals of money, passport (or other identification documents), and mode of communication. The traffickers will generally confine the persons inside the home so that they are hidden from the public, and provide them limited access to the outside world. Because the individual is viewed as an investment, the traffickers typically only provide bare necessities. Such individuals may be malnourished, and given very little or no salary. Because of the hiddenness of domestic servitude, neighbors or outside individual(s) with access to the home, like the cable man in this scenario, are the targeted public who can report this crime. In the last decade, the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline received 1,372 reports of suspected labor trafficking occurring in the United States. Twenty-two percent of these reports were specific to suspected domestic servitude.
7 Federal statutes prohibit involuntary servitude, slavery, and forced labor. These violations are codified in 18 U.S.C. § 1581, et. seq. The specific violations described here can be found in 18 U.S.C. §§ 1584, 1589, 1590, and 1592.
8 The indicators listed here are not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Indicators on this list may not be present in all domestic servitude trafficking cases but represents only those depicted in this scenario.
The purpose of Can You See Me? is to equip the general public to recognize indicators of human trafficking, and report suspected scenarios. An increase in reports will lead to an increase in victim identification.
Can You See Me? exists to bring awareness of the millions of men, women, and children who are currently trapped in slavery across the world. By partnering with law enforcement, governments, businesses, and NGOs, our goal is to turn awareness into action. Click the scenarios above to find out more information and to watch the PSA videos.
1. There are millions of slaves in the world today. I’m standing with @A21 because together, you and I can do something about it. If you suspect it, report it. A21.org/CanYouSeeMe #CanYouSeeMe #A21
2. Modern day slavery still exists. If you suspect it, report it. Learn how through @A21 or visit A21.org/CanYouSeeMe. #CanYouSeeMe #A21
3. I’m partnering with @A21 + #CanYouSeeMe to raise awareness for modern day slavery. Together, we can see an increase in identification, reporting, and rescues. If you suspect it, report it: A21.org/CanYouSeeMe #A21
4. Slavery is still happening in our world today. But you and I actually have the power to change that. @A21 just launched #CanYouSeeMe, a global campaign that equips us to recognize indicators of human trafficking and to report any suspicious. With the steps we take together, we can see slavery abolished in our lifetime. A21.org/CanYouSeeMe #A21