Human Trafficking: What you need to know for self-advocates

What is Human Trafficking?

Human Trafficking is the exploitation of someone for commercial sex, labor, or organ harvesting purposes.

Why are Individuals with Disabilities at Risk?

  • You may be less confident to disobey an adult or authority figure and speak up.
  • Your SSI benefits can be something of value to traffickers.
  • A lack of sexual education can prevent you from understanding what is right and wrong with regard to your own body.

How Does Human Trafficking Happen?

Human trafficking occurs in the following ways:


Definition: Taking someone against their will.
Example: Someone forces you into a car and takes you somewhere you do not want to be.

Denial of Food/Water
Definition: Refusing to give someone food or water when they need it.
Example: A caregiver refuses to give you food unless you agree to participate in certain

Definition: Limiting someone’s ability to leave an area.
Example: You are locked inside a room or home against your will.


Definition: Tricking someone.
Example: A person lies to you and says that a parent or caregiver has given permission for a situation to occur.

False Promises of Life/Work Conditions
Definition: Lying about what will happen at work or other parts of life.
Example: Someone promises that you will get to live in a house for free, but instead you must work without pay or do sexual favors to stay there.

Definition: Unfair payment for work.
Example: You work long hours and get little or no pay.


Abuse of Power
Definition: People with influence over another person use that power inappropriately.
Example: A boss or supervisor forces you into a human trafficking situation by threatening your job.

Definition: Owing money or favors to another person.
Example: Someone offers money or some other way of helping you and then forces you into unwanted situations to “pay it back.”

Definition: Using a person as a slave.
Example: A person forces you to work without fair pay or sometimes any pay at all.

Threat of Violence
Definition: Saying they will hurt someone.
Example: Someone threatens to hurt or kill you if you do not do what they say.

Definition: Threats to use law enforcement.
Example: A person forces you to do something illegal, then tricks you into thinking you will get arrested if the police get involved.

Release of Photos or Videos
Definition: The sharing of images without permission.
Example: Someone threatens to post private pictures of you on the internet unless you do what they say.

Threats to Loved Ones
Definition: Saying they will hurt someone you care about.
Example: A person says they will kill your family unless you do what they say.

Who Are the Traffickers?

  • Anyone Can Be a Trafficker. They can be someone you know. They will often gain your trust by being nice and offering support. Over time, they get you to let your guard down. This is done through a process called grooming. A trafficker uses the tactics above to force you into an unwanted/uncomfortable situation. Many traffickers are women who can gain the trust of others.
  • They Can Gain Access to You Through Social Media. Traffickers can find you in chat rooms, message boards, virtual support groups, and other areas where they can learn about you. They may try to learn information about you so they can groom you into feeling more comfortable in dangerous situations.

Think You Might Be a Victim of Human Trafficking?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has anyone ever taken your identification, or provided you with an alternative or fake identification?
  • Have you ever worked without getting paid?
  • Have you ever been punished (beaten, deprived of food, water, or sleep, isolated, etc.) for not making a certain amount of money?
  • Does anyone control your food (whether or not you ate, how much, what food, etc.)?
  • Have you ever lived or worked at a place where the doors/windows were locked and you could not leave when you wanted?
  • Has anyone ever denied your contact with family, friends, or others?
  • Has anyone taken/kept money that was yours in exchange for food, transportation, rent, clothing, beauty treatments, etc?
  • Have you ever felt that if you wanted to leave that situation, you —or someone you care about — would be in danger?
  • Have you ever received anything of value (money, housing, food, gifts, drugs, etc.) in exchange for sexual contact?

I Think I’m a Victim of Human Trafficking…What Should I Do?

Contact the authorities.

  • Local police
  • State police

Signs of Human Trafficking

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

  • Fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense.
  • Exhibits fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up police (Traffickers sometimes make threats that they will hurt victims if law enforcement gets involved).

Examples of fearful/anxious behavior: Avoiding eye contact, restless movement, change in speech (Speaks faster or avoids talking at all. Volume can get quieter or louder).

Poor Physical Health

  • Lacks medical care and/or is denied medical services by their employer.
  • Appears malnourished or shows signs of exposure to harmful chemicals.
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse.

Some common signs of abuse include: Injuries that cannot be explained (e.g., broken bones, burns, cuts, bruising, missing teeth), bleeding in the genital or rectal areas, blood on sheets or underwear, frequent yeast or bladder infections, STD’s, or pregnancy.

Lack of Control

  • Few or no personal possessions.
  • Not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account.
  • Not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport).
  • Not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating).


  • Claims of “just visiting” and cannot clarify where he/she is staying/address.
  • Cannot identify where they are or what city they are in.
  • Loss of sense of time.
  • Numerous inconsistencies in her/his story.

Preventing Human Trafficking

Steps to Help You Avoid Becoming a Victim

  • Develop a safety plan in case you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
  • Before you leave the house, make sure you have a fully charged cell phone and emergency contact numbers.
  • Know the types of people who can be trusted. Examples of these people include police officers, bus drivers, and store clerks.
  • Always demand respect: nobody should touch you inappropriately, hurt you, make fun of you, or refuse to pay you appropriately.

Protect Yourself Against Grooming and Abuse

  • Surround yourself with service professionals that you know and trust. Examples include doctors, case managers, and therapists.
  • Have a strong social support system.
  • Avoid unsafe neighborhoods and/or schools.
  • Have a trusted adult in your life who makes you feel loved, accepted, and safe.
  • Traffickers often target people with low self-esteem. Cultivate personality traits that will make you a stronger person, such as optimism, confidence, creativity, humor, and independence.
  • Feel accepted among your peers and other influential people in your life.
  • Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to confide in your family and other loved ones.
  • Set consistent rules and expectations for yourself.
  • Find a balance between being independent and being safe.
  • Know how to cope with stress in a healthy way.
  • Know the warning signs of abuse and how to report it.
  • Talk openly and honestly about personal safety, boundaries, saying no, and healthy and unhealthy touching.

Additional Resources

¿Por qué están en peligro las personas con discapacidad?

  • Usted puede tener menos seguridad para desobedecer a unadulto o a una figura de autoridad y hablar.
  • Sus beneficios de SSI pueden convertirse en algo valioso paralos traficantes.
  • La falta de educación sexual puede impedirle comprender lo queestá bien y lo que está mal con respecto a su propio cuerpo.

¿Cree que pueda ser una víctima de la trata de personas? Hágase lassiguientes preguntas:

  • ¿Alguna vez alguien le ha quitado suidentificación, o le ha proporcionado unaidentificación alternativa o falsa?
  • ¿Ha trabajado alguna vez sin cobrar?
  • ¿Alguna vez le han castigado (golpeado,privado de comida, agua o sueño,aislado, etc.) por no ganar unadeterminada cantidad de dinero?
  • ¿Alguien controla su alimentación (sicome o no, cuánto, qué alimentos, etc.)?
    ¿Ha vivido o trabajado alguna vez en unlugar donde las puertas/ventanas estabancerradas y no podía salir cuando quería?
  • ¿Alguna vez alguien le ha negado elcontacto con su familia, amigos u otraspersonas?
  • ¿Alguien ha tomado/retenido dinero que era suyo a cambio de comida,transporte, alquiler, ropa, tratamientos de belleza, etc.?
  • ¿Ha sentido alguna vez que si quisiera salir de esa situación, usted (o alguiena quien quiere) estaría en peligro?
  • ¿Ha recibido alguna vez algo de valor (dinero, vivienda, comida, regalos,drogas, etc.) a cambio de contacto sexual?

Creo que soy víctima de la trata de personas… ¿Qué debo hacer?

Póngase en contacto con las autoridades.

  • Policía local
  • Policía estatal

Señales de la trata de personas

Mala salud mental o comportamiento anormal:

  • La persona se siente temerosa, ansiosa, deprimida, sumisa, tensa.
  • Muestra un comportamiento temeroso o ansioso después demencionar a la policía (los traficantes a veces amenazan con hacerdaño a las víctimas si se involucra la policía).
    • Ejemplos de comportamiento temeroso/ansioso: Evitar el contactovisual, movimientos continuos, cambio en el habla (habla másrápido o evita hablar. el volumen puede ser más bajo o más alto).

Mala salud física:

  • No recibe atención médica o su empleador le niega los servicios médicos.
  • Parece desnutrido o muestra signos de exposición a sustancias químicas nocivas.Muestra signos de abuso físico o sexual.
    • Algunos signos comunes de abuso incluyen: Lesiones que no puedenexplicarse (por ejemplo, huesos rotos, quemaduras, cortes, hematomas, falta dedientes), sangrado en las zonas genitales o rectales, sangre en las sábanas oen la ropa interior, infecciones frecuentes por hongos o en la vejiga, ETS oembarazo.

Falta de control:

  • Cuenta con pocas o ninguna posesión personal.
  • No controla su propio dinero, no tiene registros financieros ni cuenta bancaria.
  • No tiene control de sus propios documentos de identificación (DNI o pasaporte).
  • No se le permite o no puede hablar por sí mismo (un tercero puede insistir en estarpresente o traducir).

Otros :

  • Afirma estar “sólo de visita” y no puede aclarar dónde se aloja/dirige.
  • No puede identificar dónde se encuentra o en qué ciudad está.
  • Pérdida del sentido del tiempo.
  • Numerosas incoherencias en su historia.

Prevención de la trata de personas

Pasos para ayudarle a evitar convertirse en víctima:

  • Desarrolle un plan de seguridad por si se encuentra en una situación de peligro.
  • Antes de salir de casa, asegúrese de llevar un teléfono móvil completamente cargado ylos números de contacto de emergencia.
  • Conozca el tipo de personas en las que puede confiar. Algunos ejemplos de estaspersonas son los agentes de policía, los conductores de autobús y los dependientes delas tiendas.
  • Exija siempre respeto: nadie debe tocarle de forma inapropiada, herirle, burlarse onegarse a pagarle adecuadamente.

Protéjase contra los abusos y la manipulación sicológica para atraerle (grooming).

  • Rodéese de profesionales de servicios queconozca y en los que confíe. Por ejemplo,médicos, gestores de casos y terapeutas.
  • Tenga un sistema de apoyo social fuerte.
  • Evite los barrios o las escuelas inseguras.
  • Tenga un adulto de confianza en su vida que lehaga sentir amado, aceptado y seguro.
  • Los traficantes suelen tener como objetivo apersonas con baja autoestima. Cultive rasgos depersonalidad que le hagan una persona másfuerte, como el optimismo, la confianza, lacreatividad, el humor y la independencia.
  • Siéntase aceptado entre sus pares y otraspersonas influyentes en su vida.
  • No se avergüence ni tenga miedo de confiar en sufamilia y otros seres queridos.
  • Establezca reglas y expectativas coherentes para usted mismo.
  • Encuentre el equilibrio entre ser independiente y estar seguro.
  • Conozca cómo afrontar el estrés de forma saludable.
  • Conozca las señales de advertencia de los abusos y cómo denunciarlos.
  • Hable abiertamente y con honestidad sobre la seguridad personal, los límites, eldecir no y las caricias sanas y no sanas.

Recursos adicionales

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Other downloads

Name Description Type File
What is Human Trafficking This resource provides an overview of human trafficking. pdf Download file: What is Human Trafficking
Signs of Human Trafficking This resource provides information about the signs someone may be trafficked. pdf Download file: Signs of Human Trafficking
Information Flyers These informational flyers are designed to be shared and posted. Flyers contain basic information about human trafficking and emergency contact numbers for people who may be trafficked. pdf Download file: Information Flyers
Emergency Contact Card This wallet-sized card contains contact information and emergency numbers. pdf Download file: Emergency Contact Card
Preventing Human Trafficking This resource provides information about ways to prevent yourself from being trafficked. pdf Download file: Preventing Human Trafficking
Suspect Human Trafficking? This resource provides information about what to do to if you suspect human trafficking. pdf Download file: Suspect Human Trafficking?

This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.