We often train the community based on our experiences working directly with human trafficking survivors. Sometimes, it is difficult for the public to grasp the multitude of issues human trafficking survivors can present with when they come into the Restored Wings Program. Our presentation includes a list of physical and psychosocial signs of potential trafficking victims, and a list of short and long-term effects of trafficking. We did not pull these from a website – every single issue on these lists are from our experiences working with trafficking survivors.

Physical Signs of Potential Human Trafficking Victims:

  • Evidence of sexual and physical trauma​
  • Tattoos or burn/cut scars in discreet places, especially with a strange symbol, or someone’s name or initials​
  • Shift in attire, or wearing the same clothes for multiple days​
  • Signs of malnourishment​
  • Signs of sleep deprivation​
  • Unexplained bruises, scars, limp/tries to cover up injuries or lies about how they got injuries​
  • Evidence of drug intoxication/use​
  • Odd behavior (constantly in fight, flight, or freeze, or a shift in attitude)​
  • Signs of self-inflicted injuries (cutting, burning, multiple piercings, picking)​

Psychosocial Signs of Potential Human Trafficking Victims:

  • Manipulative to get what they want/need
  • Uses language others may not be familiar with – trafficking lingo
  • Attention seeking behavior
  • Minimizes past experiences
  • Resists help out of fear, may fear authority figures, especially police​
  • Sudden anger outbursts, cussing at others​
  • Getting sick often, stomach aches/vomiting, GI issues, headaches, jitters​
  • May contemplate or talk about suicide​
  • Seems distracted, can’t focus, spaces out ​
  • Sexual references​
  • Displays of emotional distress (depression, anxiety)
  • May have multiple mental health diagnoses, such as Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, or Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Effects Human Trafficking Survivors Experience:

  • Substance abuse​
  • Sleep problems and insomnia, night terrors​
  • Somatic symptoms (shaking, physical pain)​
  • Immense shame​
  • Extreme anger and sadness​
  • STDs​
  • History of abortion​
  • Lack of custody of children​
  • Untreated medical issues (such as broken bones that​ were not healed correctly)​
  • Detachment from emotions​
  • Believing dysfunctional life practices are normal
  • Little to no personal boundaries​
  • Isolation from family and friends​
  • Tattoo brandings from traffickers​
  • Harmful eating habits (malnourished, overeating)​
  • Little to no personal belongings or personal finances
  • Legal records for prostitution, shoplifting, drug charges​
  • No emotional regulation or coping skills​
  • Self-harm​
  • Intrusive mental flashbacks ​
  • Hypervigilance (feeling on-edge), experiencing “fight or flight”
  • High anxiety and/or depression

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