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  • Writer's pictureLani Byrd

Breaking Chains: Shedding Light on Human Trafficking and Empowering Change

January is more than just the beginning of a new year; it marks National Trafficking Awareness Month, a crucial time to shed light on this pervasive issue. In this post, we'll learn what human trafficking is, recognize the signs of trafficking, and discuss actionable steps you can take to make a positive impact.

team at 911 Cell Phone Bank wearing blue for #WearBlueDay


Human trafficking is a serious and complex crime that involves the exploitation of individuals through force, fraud, or coercion for various purposes. Exploitation can take many forms, including forced labor, sex trafficking, child labor, debt bondage, and involuntary servitude. Human trafficking often occurs in plain sight but can often go unnoticed.


  • Human trafficking occurs in every state within the US.

  • The number of people being trafficked in the world rose 12% between 2016 and 2021.

  • Some 27.6 million people across the globe are living without the freedom to choose how they live and work.

  • Trafficking can affect men, women, and children. Women and girls represent 65 percent of all trafficking victims globally. More than 90 percent of detected female victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

  • The National Human Trafficking Hotline received reports of 11,869 potential cases of human trafficking in 2020, involving 24,091 individuals. 50,123 signals were received by the Hotline in 2021 consisting of calls, texts, and online chats and tips.

  • The U.S. State Department's 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report noted that the United States saw an increase in the number of reported cases compared to previous years.


It is essential to be aware of the signs and indicators that may suggest someone is a victim of trafficking. Remember that these signs are not exhaustive, and each situation may vary. If you suspect human trafficking, it's important to contact local law enforcement or a human trafficking hotline immediately. Here are some general indicators to be aware of:

stop human trafficking with hands raised in awareness

Behavioral Signs:

  • Fear and Anxiety: Victims may exhibit signs of extreme fear, anxiety, or nervousness, especially when approached by authorities.

  • Isolation: Victims may be isolated from the community and seldom allowed to interact with others freely.

  • Dependence: Traffickers often exercise control over victims, making them financially, emotionally, or physically dependent.

Physical Appearance:

  • Signs of Abuse: Traffickers may use physical violence or threats of harm to control and intimidate victims. Observe for physical injuries, signs of malnourishment, or other indicators of abuse.

  • Inadequate Clothing or Shelter: Victims may lack proper clothing for the weather or live in substandard conditions.

Working Conditions:

  • Long Hours and Low Pay: Individuals forced into labor trafficking may work excessively long hours for little or no pay.

  • Poor Living Conditions: Victims may live in overcrowded or unsanitary conditions.

Restricted Movement:

  • Constant Supervision: Victims may be under close surveillance and rarely allowed to move freely.

  • Limited Interaction: Victims may be unable to communicate freely. Traffickers may control their communication, even taking their cell phones and other electronic devices away.

Control Tactics:

  • False Documents: Traffickers may confiscate victims' identification documents to control and manipulate them.

  • Threats and Intimidation: Victims may be threatened with physical harm or harm to their families if they attempt to escape or seek help.

  • Forced Substance Abuse: Traffickers may use drugs as a means of control, making victims dependent and susceptible to coercion.

Sexual Exploitation:

  • Forced Prostitution: In cases of sex trafficking, traffickers may force victims into prostitution and use the threat of exposure or harm to maintain control.

  • Sexual Assault: Victims may experience sexual assault as a means of intimidation and control.

  • Signs of Physical or Sexual Abuse: Victims of sex trafficking may show signs of physical trauma, abuse, or sexually transmitted infections.

  • Frequent Moves: Victims may be frequently moved from one location to another.

Economic Coercion:

  • Limited Belongings: Victims may possess few personal belongings and lack control over their finances.

  • Debt Bondage: Traffickers may exploit victims by placing them in debt, making it difficult for them to break free from the cycle of exploitation.

  • Withholding Wages: Victims, particularly in labor trafficking, may have their wages withheld, making them financially dependent on the trafficker.

Behavior in Public Spaces:

  • Avoiding Eye Contact: Victims may avoid making eye contact with others, particularly strangers.

  • Inconsistencies in Stories: Victims may provide inconsistent or scripted responses to questions.


vector of raised hands with hearts inside of them

Educate Yourself and Others:

  • Stay informed about the different forms of human trafficking.

  • Share educational resources with friends, family, and community members to raise awareness.

  • Share information on social media to raise awareness within your network.

911 Cell Phone Bank non profit organization logo

Support Anti-Trafficking Organizations:

  • Contribute to and volunteer with organizations dedicated to combating human trafficking.

  • Donated cell phones and other personal electronic devices provide victims with a means to communicate with support networks and emergency services. The 911 Cell Phone Bank (501c3) provides a 100% free service to individuals, businesses, and agencies across the country to securely recycle these devices that are no longer needed, or that have been left behind in lost-and-found or property-and-evidence rooms. Devices are securely data erased and then given to law enforcement and victim agencies to distribute to victims in need.

human trafficking hotline phone numbers around the world

Be Vigilant in Your Community:

  • Report any suspicious activities to local law enforcement or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline to report a tip.

  • Educate your community about the signs of trafficking to promote a watchful and supportive environment.

social media icons

Raise Awareness Through Social Media:

  • Utilize your online presence to share informative content about human trafficking.

  • Participate in awareness campaigns, especially during events like National Trafficking Awareness Month.

  • #WearBlueDay: One impactful way to show solidarity with survivors and raise awareness during National Trafficking Awareness Month is by participating in the Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign. This initiative encourages individuals, organizations, and communities to wear blue clothing on January 11th to symbolize their commitment to combating human trafficking. By donning blue, we send a powerful message that we stand united against this grave violation of human rights.

Support Fair Trade Practices:

  • Choose products and services that follow fair trade practices and ethical sourcing to avoid supporting businesses that may contribute to human trafficking.

  • Encourage businesses to adopt ethical employment practices and ensure their supply chains are free from exploitation.

  • Support companies that demonstrate a commitment to fair labor standards.

Engage with Schools and Youth Organizations:

  • Collaborate with educational institutions and youth organizations to provide awareness programs and resources.

  • Educate young people about the risks and signs of human trafficking to empower them to protect themselves and their peers.

As we navigate through National Trafficking Awareness Month and participate in Wear Blue Day, it is crucial to remember that our collective efforts can make a significant impact. By educating ourselves, supporting organizations, staying vigilant, and raising awareness, we contribute to the fight against human trafficking. Let's unite in wearing blue and sending a resounding message that we are committed to creating a world free from the chains of exploitation.

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