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Get Aware – It’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month

It’s estimated that more than 20.9 million people worldwide*, including children and adults, are trafficked – trapped in a modern-day form of slavery – each year. And it happens here at home. Illinois is the fifth highest state for calls to the national human trafficking hotline. Our state is a point of origin, transit and destination for many victims.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the exploitation of a person, for the purpose of forced labor or a commercial sex act, through the use of force, fraud or coercion. Anyone can be a trafficking victim, regardless of age, sex or citizenship. A person may be trafficked by a stranger, employer, friend or acquaintance, or by his or her own partner, spouse, parent or relative.

Many trafficking victims are forced to work in prostitution, pornography or exotic dancing. But trafficking also occurs in forms of labor exploitation, such as domestic, restaurant and factory work, as well as work in nail and hair salons, cleaning services, the hotel industry, and many other places. It can take place in any industry that incurs a profit.

How We’re Helping

The Human Trafficking Initiative of Metropolitan’s Legal Aid Society (LAS) has been at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking, rendering legal aid to trafficking survivors since 2012. Recently, LAS was awarded a three-year federal grant to provide anti-trafficking training and technical assistance to professionals to help identify and refer trafficking survivors. The grant has enabled the Initiative to train lawyers, social workers, counselors and community members, including staff and board members at various Metropolitan Family Services locations. Learn more about trafficking and the Human Trafficking Initiative here.

How to Identify Trafficking Victims

There may be telltale signs that someone is possibly a trafficked individual. Some indicators include:


  • Afraid to talk/intimidated
  • Shows signs that their movement is being controlled
  • Acts as if under another’s instructions
  • Tense/anxious especially regarding law enforcement
  • Unable to tell where s/he lives
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Numerous inconsistencies in story


  • Shows signs of abuse, restraint or torture
  • Has injuries
  • Under 18 + provides sex acts
  • Lacks health care
  • Looks malnourished / given only leftovers to eat
  • May look disheveled
  • Has few/no personal possessions
  • Not in control of own money
  • Not in control of own documents
  • Depends on employer for many things, including work, transportation and accommodation

Surrounding Circumstances

  • Not free to come and go as s/he pleases
  • Unpaid/paid less than agreed to
  • Works excessively long hours
  • Owes a large debt
  • Recruited through false promises
  • High security measures in the work or living location

If you think you know someone who may be trafficked or have questions, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. It is confidential, toll free, available 24 hours/7 days a week, and interpreters are available. The hotline will help assess whether there is a trafficking situation, identify local resources to help the trafficking survivor, and coordinate with local social service organizations including Metropolitan, to help protect and serve trafficking survivors. Learn more here.

*International Labour Organization – Stat on global trafficking: http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_182109/lang–en/index.htm