February 24, 2021
A dear friend of mine recently told me this story. It was about a sad-looking young girl she encountered at a fast-food restaurant she stopped at for coffee on her drive home last week. Here is what she shared with me.
As I entered the restaurant, I noticed two men in the parking lot. They caught my attention because they looked suspicious as if they were on the look-out for someone or something. I continued into the restaurant, but with a new sense of alertness. As soon as I entered, I spotted this young girl, maybe 12 or thirteen years old.
She was dirty and unkempt. We locked eyes as she anxiously scanned the room. After her eyes met mine, she immediately shifted her gaze to the ground. Two men approached the table. They looked to be about forty or fifty years old. They boxed her in at the table. They ate their burgers in silence and did not offer any food to the girl. The entire scene seemed off. Who were these men, and how were they related to the girl? I wanted to talk to her, ask if she is ok, but I did not feel that it would be safe for the girl or me.
My presence had attracted the attention of her chaperones. I was worried that I would create more problems for her if I attempted to intervene. I got my coffee and left. I drove about a mile and pulled over to call the local police station. I described what I saw. They took my concerns seriously and said they had a team of specially trained officers to deal with this type of situation and would dispatch them to the restaurant. I also described the men in the parking lot and their car and then drove off shaking. Had I done enough?... Had I done the right thing? ... Was I making this all up?
Scenes like my friend described in her story are happening all across the United States. In every city and neighborhood. Rural and suburban, poor and wealthy. No community is immune to the exploitation of women and children entrapped by Human Traffickers. Human Trafficking is a bigger problem than drugs in many communities across the country.
What is Human Trafficking exactly? According to the office of Homeland Security
“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose. Every year, millions of men, women, and children worldwide—including in the United States—are victims of human trafficking. Victims are often lured with false promises of well-paying jobs or are manipulated by people they trust, but instead are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of forced labor.”
How do Human Traffickers find their victims?
Traffickers are experts at psychological manipulation. They look for people who seem vulnerable. The homeless, runaway children, people experiencing economic hard times, illegal immigrants looking for work and shelter. People who would not feel safe going to the police or social services for help.
They have endless opportunities to hunt for victims online and then convince them to meet in person. Kids who do not have stable home lives, are victims of bullying, and have few friends may become targets.
Human traffickers are expert at luring people with job opportunities, modeling assignments, or creating false romantic relationships.
How do you recognize someone who is a victim of Human Trafficking?
Here are a few examples of what to look for:
Do they seem fearful and submissive?
Are they not able to look you directly in the eyes?
Do they have multiple bruises or look like they are malnourished, sleep-deprived, or dehydrated?
Are they always in the company of someone that seems to be in control of them?
Does it sound like they have been coached on how to respond to questions?
Have you witnessed a child living in unstable circumstances or simply stop going to school?
What actions should you take if you suspect that someone is a victim of Human Trafficking?
Lucky for that young girl, my friend knew what to look for and what to do in that situation. She didn’t put anyone in harm's way, and the story had a happy ending for the young girl. Not so much for the Traffickers.
Here are the basics of what you need to know and some additional resources to get further educated.
Step one – Do not put yourself or the suspected victim in harm's way. If they are with the trafficker or abuser do not approach them. Note as many details as possible about the scene. After you are safe, make notes of any addresses, license plates, observations, and any identifying features of the Trafficker and the victim. Alert the police once you are safe.
Step two-If the Victim is alone then you can communicate your concerns about their safety and wellbeing. Ask the victim about their working and living situation. Ask if they are free to leave. Let them know that they do not deserve to be abused or mistreated.
Step Three- Do not be surprised if they don’t welcome your concern for them. Their abuser has probably threatened them and their families.
Do not pressure them to leave or get help. You are not a professional and you don’t know all the details of their situation. All you can do is offer help. Let them know that they deserve to be safe and that there is a caring community waiting to help if that is what they want.
Step Four- Call in the professionals. Contact your local police or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-3737-888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate.
Get educated about Human Trafficking and become an advocate. Visit our resource page at
to learn more;
Global Hope 365 is educating city, county, and local lawmakers on human trafficking prevention and increased penalties for offenders. Support our outreach efforts to establish a human trafficking perpetrator registry to help law enforcement efforts in preventing human trafficking victims.
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