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Get Aware – January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

CHICAGO – It’s estimated by the International Labour Organization that approximately 24 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 a point of origin, transit and destination for many victims, and safety too for those who are running away from their trafficking condition in other states.

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. Some victims endure force or restraint to keep them in their situation. But others are manipulated in non-physical ways that make it difficult to leave without fear of harm or retaliation such as the use of threats, isolation, lies, etc. 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.

Some 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, traveling sales crews and many other places. It can take place in any industry that incurs a profit, and can affect workers who may be undocumented or may have a work visa.

Victims are eligible to receive free help, which include the following: legal assistance, housing, health care, food, income, employment, and immigration. A humanitarian visa called the T-visa is available for foreign-born survivors of trafficking. All these services are available regardless of immigration status.

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. To learn more about trafficking and the Human Trafficking Initiative, click here.

How You Can Help

  • Donate to Metropolitan’s Legal Aid Society: select Legal Aid Society under the designation drop-down
  • Volunteer to help our Human Trafficking Initiative staff translate documents: email trafficking@metrofamily.org for details
  • Attend a training to learn more about human trafficking:
  • Educate yourself with resources from our Human Trafficking Initiative
    • Spread the word! Our resources page includes printable brochures and outreach cards you can distribute
  • If you think you know someone who may be trafficked or have questions, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888

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 Hotline 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 at http://www.humantraffickinghotline.org or at https://www.illinoislegalaid.org/voc/human-trafficking.