January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month. We are shining a light on this important issue in our community.
When we think about human trafficking, it’s easy to imagine that it happens somewhere else or that it’s an issue that exists, but that doesn’t impact our daily lives. This is a myth—and it’s one that makes it easier for traffickers to exploit and assault their victims.
The reality is that human trafficking can happen to anyone. It happens across the globe, throughout the United States, and, yes, here in Connecticut. It happens in our communities and to our neighbors.
Recent headlines make this clear: “Bristol Man Charged with Sex Trafficking, Related Offenses,” “Bridgeport man charged with trafficking, prostituting teenaged girl,” “Arrests made in connection to juvenile sex trafficking: Norwalk Police.”
And since its inception in 2007, the Human Trafficking Hotline has identified 508 human trafficking cases involving Connecticut victims. In 2021 alone, there were 54 cases involving 61 local victims.
The Department of Family and Children received 241 reports of child trafficking in 2021 in Connecticut. And between the years of 2016 and 2021, Connecticut logged 456 arrests for human trafficking-related offenses. I-95 on the east coast is a major corridor for human trafficking.
Most human trafficking is sex trafficking, so this issue falls squarely into our mission here at The Rowan Center. We work to combat sex trafficking through education about healthy relationships, consent, and autonomy. We use our referral network to connect survivors to the specific resources they need. And we support victims and survivors of trafficking—and all forms of sexual violence—by providing crisis services, counseling, support groups, advocacy, and care.
You can help fight human trafficking by learning the signs, raising your voice, and supporting victims and survivors.
Learn the Signs
Traffickers recognize and take advantage of people who are vulnerable, especially those who have unstable living situations, are runaways, are experiencing poverty, or are undocumented. They also focus on young people and often lure them with promises of protection and love, or even plans for adventure. Importantly, half of all victims are children—the average age a child becomes a victim of sex trafficking is between 12 and 14 years old.
Traffickers often contact potential victims through social media or approach them at clubs or bars, at school, in malls, or in train stations. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol or have previously experienced other forms of violence are also vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers also take advantage of societal disruptions, like the pandemic, to find and groom more victims.
Victims of human trafficking often:
- Live in dangerous, or inhumane conditions, sometimes provided by an employer
- Owe money to their employer
- Do not have control over their own passport or other identification documents
- Have a controlling parent, partner, or person who monitors their movements, spending, and/or communications
- Meet their perpetrator online
In addition, there are warning signs that a young person is or could become a victim of sex trafficking, including:
- Running away from home
- Truancy/not attending school
- Possessing a cell phone that they or their parents did not purchase
- Using credit cards that do not belong to them
- Older boyfriends
- Signs of physical abuse such as burn marks, bruises, or cuts
- New tattoos (traffickers often use tattoos as a form of branding)
Victims are not criminals, they are survivors
Victims of human trafficking are often forced to participate in illegal activities, including prostitution, theft, or selling illegal drugs. A 2016 survey conducted by the National Survivor Network found that over 90% of survivors surveyed had a criminal record—and these records follow victims, even if they escape their traffickers.
Victims are usually afraid to seek help, and they feel they are unable to leave traffickers for many reasons—including fear of physical violence, past trauma, threats of harm to their families (this tactic is very common), or simply having nowhere else to go. Many victims also have a distrust of authority figures for these same reasons.
Our community partners at the Trumbull-based Partnership to End Human Trafficking (PEHT), are doing long-term work to end human trafficking and support survivors.
Programs like PEHT and others in the community help survivors find legal employment, walk alongside them as they recover, and encourage them as they find stability and healing.
Raising our voice for National Human Trafficking Prevention Month
Since 2010, January has been recognized as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month—an annual reminder to raise awareness and educate on prevention. According to the US Department of State, “there are estimated to be more than 24.9 million people—adults and children—subjected to human trafficking around the world, including in the United States.”
At The Rowan Center, we educate the community, care for survivors, and, working with our partners, specifically offer resources for trafficking victims who have experienced sexual violence. We are here to support survivors of trafficking and sexual violence—regardless of how or when it occurred—by connecting them with advocates, counselors, and other resources.
You can take action to end human trafficking, too, by supporting survivors and taking action if you see warning signs in your community.
If you suspect trafficking, call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
Need immediate support for sexual violence of any kind? The Rowan Center’s crisis hotline is available 24/7 at no cost to victims and survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones. Call 203-329-2929 to access confidential support, including a listening ear, more resources, and helpful information.