Study of HHS Programs Serving Human Trafficking Victims. How are victims identified?

12/15/2009

Across respondents, the majority of international victims were reportedly being identified by local/State or Federal law enforcement through tips, other investigations, raids, or referrals from NGOs. Others identifying victims included social service providers, faith-based organizations and houses of faith, and Good Samaritans. In some cases, such as with medical clinics, immigration service providers, and domestic violence shelters, victims were being identified from among existing clients as the result of improved screening procedures. By asking the right questions, staff were able to determine that clients with other issues and needs for services often met the definition of human trafficking.

We often encounter victims [of human trafficking] during the investigation of other crimes. Unfortunately, not all of our officers are trained in the issue or know the red flags to look for. Im sure we are coming across victims without even knowing it. We need more training.

Law enforcement officer

Similar to the case of international victims, law enforcement appeared to be the primary source of identification of domestic victims. However, in most cases, domestic victims were first arrested and charged with crimes such as solicitation, pandering, or shoplifting before being identified as victims of human trafficking. Some shelters reported the only reason they were aware they were serving (or had served) victims of domestic trafficking was that the children or youth had self-disclosed their victimization during counseling sessions.

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