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Safety Planning for Human Trafficking Victims

Human Trafficking

This article is from a human trafficking safety planning guide created by the Polaris Project. It provides information for victims/survivors of human trafficking to increase their safety. 


About Safety Planning

Safety planning refers to formal or informal risk assessments, preparations, and contingency plans designed to increase the safety of a human trafficking victim or an individual at-risk for human trafficking, as well as any agency or individual assisting a victim.  A successful safety plan will:

  • Assess the current risk and identify current and potential safety concerns;
  • Create strategies for avoiding or reducing the threat of harm;
  • Outline concrete options for responding when safety is threatened or compromised.

Safety planning is important at various stages in a human trafficking situation—while a victim is in the situation, during the process of leaving, and once the victim has left. The following document presents general guidelines for conducting safety planning with victims of human trafficking as well as those who may be considering a suspicious employment or relationship situation and may be at risk for human trafficking. The suggestions below do not guarantee an individual’s safety or the prevention of trafficking. Each individual is in the best position to assess his/her own current level of safety and safety planning should be tailored to his/her unique circumstance.

Safety Planning and Human Trafficking

Definition of Human Trafficking from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA):

In order to understand the unique safety concerns of trafficking victims and plan for safety accordingly, it is essential to start with the definition of human trafficking:

  • Sex Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not yet attained 18 years of age. See 22 U.S.C. 7201(10).
  • Labor Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. 22 U.S.C. 7201(9)(B).

Victims of both labor and sex trafficking have multiple safety concerns that should be addressed in the context of developing a safety plan:

  • Isolation, abandonment;
  • Movement, disorientation, unfamiliarity with current location;
  • Lack of food, medicine, clothing, or safe shelter;
  • Increased vulnerability to exploitation, abuse, or other crimes;
  • Confiscation of money and/or identity documents;
  • Physical harm or violence to the victim(s) or others;
  • Abduction, kidnapping, confinement, restraint.

Note: Controllers pose a significant and constant threat to the safety of the victim(s), but it is also important to consider the threat posed by others who may not be engaged in the trafficking situation, but may take advantage of the victim’s vulnerability.

Potential Red Flags for Human Trafficking Situations

The following scenarios are red flags for relationship and/or employment situations that may develop into human trafficking. The presence of one or more of these indicators may indicate that an individual is at-risk for human trafficking. This list is not exhaustive and is intended to encompass both sex and labor trafficking. The term “partner” refers to an intimate relationship.

  • Partner/employer comes on very strongly and promises things that seem too good to be true – i.e. promises extremely high wages for easy work.Partner/employer expects that you will agree to the employment or relationship on the spot, and threatens that otherwise the opportunity will be lost.
  • Partner/employer is unclear about the terms of employment, location of employment and/or the company details/credentials.
  • Partner/employer denies access to information about your rights.
  • Partner/employer denies contact with friends or family; attempts to isolate you from your social network.
  • Partner/employer constantly checks on you and does not allow you access to your money.
  • Partner/employer asks you to do things outside of your comfort zone such as performing sexual favors for friends.
  • Partner/employer displays signs/characteristics of a dangerous person including: attempts to control movement and behaviors, exhibits jealousy, lashes out or delivers punishment in response to non-compliance, is verbally/emotionally/physically abusive.
  • Partner/employer uses threats or displays of violence to create a culture of fear.

Click the link below for the human trafficking safety planning guide.

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