While you can’t always be sure what is happening in someone’s life, the following signs might indicate someone is being sexually exploited. Think of these signs as clues to check out, not as proof of anything.
There are many stages of sexual exploitation. These stages can happen very fast or over a long time. They might not happen in this order, and some stages might not happen at all. Victims often don’t realize that they are being trafficked or what stage of trafficking they are in.
Knowing about the various stages can help you to meet and support a young person “where they are at.” Click below to learn more about each of the stages:
Sex traffickers prey on vulnerable young people. Promises of love, belonging, and a better future can be especially enticing for young people with unmet needs. Although anyone can be targeted, young people facing poverty, physical or mental illness, and other social and emotional struggles are especially vulnerable. Refer back to “Who is targeted in Nova Scotia” to explore some specific risk factors.
A young person who is transitioning into the sex trade might show some or all of the signs listed earlier in “Pay attention to signs like these.” In addition, you might notice the following:
These are some signs that a young person is entrenched in the sex trade:
These are signs a young person may be transitioning away from the sex trade:
Leaving sexual exploitation can be one of the most difficult things a person does in their lifetime. The person needs access to support programs that are flexible and judgement-free, and their basic day-to-day needs must be met.
There are many barriers to exiting the sex trade. These are linked to how the trafficker has controlled and manipulated them. Exploited people may not come forward and ask for help because:
A person might leave The Game for a variety of reasons. The transition out could happen quickly or take time. These are some factors that might influence a young person’s resolve to leave:
Staying out of the sex trade is hard once a person has been entrenched in The Life. On average, a person will leave and return seven times before breaking the cycle. As a support person, it is important understand this and continue to support even if they do re-enter.
Re-entry can happen at any stage. These are some of the factors that might contribute to re-entry:
“It is unfair to ask someone to leave a trafficker if you can’t meet all their needs, because they will go back, and it will be worse.”
Survivor of Human Trafficking