What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is a criminal offence that involves controlling, forcing, intimidating, or deceiving a person of any age in order to exploit them through various forms of sexual exploitation or forced labour. Human trafficking does not necessarily require physical movement.
Pimps aren’t always men, and sex workers aren’t always women. Both pimps and sex workers can be anyone: men, women, youths, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, etc. Not all sex workers are victims of human trafficking.
Human trafficking and sexual exploitation can happen in communities of all sizes.
Human trafficking is happening in our community and it could happen to someone you know.
You can help prevent human trafficking by:
- being informed about the issue
- knowing the signs of human trafficking and sexual exploitation
- contacting police at 902-490-5020 if someone you know is being trafficked
How police respond to human trafficking
Our first priority is the safety of victims. Upon coming into contact with a potential victim, we begin by addressing the victim’s basic needs which would include ensuring their safety, obtaining medical care in some cases, food, clothing, and shelter. As every victim needs are different, we also reach out to our community partners such and we work together with these agencies to support the victim.
Once we have some of these basic needs under control, we can then focus more on the criminal investigation and working with the victim on progressing the investigation. Investigations would include obtaining as much information and evidence as possible to support charges.
Human trafficking myths
Human trafficking is a complex issue and there are many misconceptions surrounding it.
Myth: Human trafficking is an international issue.
Reality: Human trafficking is happening right here in our communities.
Myth: Exploitation/Human Trafficking involves physical movement or physical restraint or force.
Reality: Human trafficking may involve physical restraint but traffickers also employ involves other tactics including forging an emotional bond, threats, blackmail, isolation and creating a dependency for love, money, drugs and shelter.
Myth: The victim can “just leave.”
Reality: Traffickers are master manipulators and will use multiple tactics to keep victim under their control. Victims who want to leave may feel there is no safe way out.
Myth: Victims will ask for help or self identify as a victim.
Reality: Many victims of human trafficking don’t self identify as victims. They may also be too afraid to ask for help or not know where to turn for support and assistance.
Myth: Human trafficking only exists in certain communities, races or culture.
Human trafficking can and does happen in any community, regardless of the socio-economic status, ethnicity or religion of the residents or geographic location of the community.
Myth: Only females are victims.
Reality: Males and transgender/gender variant people are also at risk and are victims of sexual exploitation/human trafficking.
Myth: Only males traffic/exploit victims.
Reality: Females also recruit, groom and exploit victims.
Myth: Police won’t help victims of human trafficking because they may be involved in criminal activities.
Reality: Police are here to help. We work with victims to get them to safety; with community partners to facilitate necessary supports. At the same time, we focus on targeting those responsible for coercing adults and youths into the sex trade.
Myth: All sex trader workers are victims of human trafficking.
Not all sex workers are victims of human trafficking.
Information on human trafficking involving youth
Who are the victims?
Anyone can be the victim of human trafficking, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, family history, ethnicity, religion, or geographic location.
Youth are particularly vulnerable, especially those who:
- lack a stable home environment
- have experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse and neglect
- live with mental health barriers and diagnoses
- struggle with alcohol and drug addiction
- have low self-confidence and esteem
- lack positive role models and/or a connection to their community
- have learning disabilities or cognitive impairments
It’s important to remember that because of the coercion and manipulation practiced by traffickers, youth who are being exploited may not self-identify as victims.
Who are the traffickers and how they operate?
There’s no one type of trafficker, they come from all walks of life.
Anyone can be a trafficker, including family members, friends and neighbours. A trafficker can be male or female, and they come from a wide range of socio-economic classes.
Traffickers are master manipulators. They are experts at identifying vulnerabilities and will recruit youth through the following tactics:
- Posing as a boyfriend, girlfriend, or lover
- Gifting (e.g. jewelry, cell phones, computers, clothing, pets)
- Promising a better lifestyle
- Providing alcohol and drugs
- Providing emotional stability, love, and companionship
- Offering free rides
- Providing housing or shelter
- Posing as a confidant, trusted adult, friend, peer
- Brainwashing youth with romantic ideas
- Using other victims to seek out and recruit potential future victims (peer-to-peer recruiting)
- Meeting and befriending the victim’s family and friends
- Making youth feel like their parents are unreasonable and unfair in their decision making
- Paying for personal grooming (e.g. hairstyles, nails, waxing, etc.)
- Hosting parties for youth
They maintain control of victims through:
- Threats of violence
- Isolation from friends and family
- Instilling distrust or fear of law enforcement
- Promising love and gifts
- Creating a dependency through money, debt, drugs, the need of a safe place to stay
- Blackmailing with threats of turning in the victim to police or threatening to expose the youth’s past actions or pictures to parents and/or peers
Where is human trafficking happening?
Human traffickers will recruit their victims from just about anywhere youth can be found. Some common places include:
- Nightclubs and bars
- Modeling Studios
- Rehabilitation Centres
- Indigenous Reserves
- Shopping Malls
- Public Transit
- Foster/Group Homes
- Truck Stops
Signs a youth may be the victim of human trafficking
It’s important to note that the presence of one or more of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean your child is being trafficked/exploited; however, these red flags may be an indicator that something is wrong in your child’s life.
- They have unexplained money, clothing and other gifts.
- They are exhibiting signs of a drug habit, or frequent, increased use of alcohol or drugs.
- They are absent from home and school and are excluding family and friends from their lives.
- There are sudden changes within their social circles and they may have new, older friends.
- They are staying out later and are reluctant to talk about their whereabouts.
- They have more than one phone and uses them frequently.
- They talk about a modeling or other job contracts waiting in another town or city.
- They are becoming more secretive about spending time online.
- They have suddenly changed their appearance, how they dress and grooming habits.
- They have tattoos or branding symbols such as names on neck, wrists, or lower back.
Human trafficking prevention
The following measures will help make your child less vulnerable to human traffickers:
- Know the signs of human trafficking and be on the lookout for red flags in your child’s behaviour.
- Teach your child about healthy relationships and personal boundaries. Don’t be afraid to talk about human trafficking.
- Foster a relationship that encourages your child to come to you in case of an emergency. Make sure that they will not let fear of “getting in trouble” inhibit their ability to convey concerns about unsafe situations.
- Know your child’s friends and who they talk to. Traffickers often build friendly relationships with victims to slowly gain their trust. Educate yourself about this kind of grooming.
- Establish guidelines for and monitor use of Internet and devices. Child sex trafficking is increasingly facilitated through technology. Use parental control settings. Periodically check your child’s phone, ask them about names or phone numbers that you do not recognize. Ensure that their social media accounts are private.
What to do if you suspect your child is the victim of human trafficking
The most important thing is to trust your instincts and take immediate action:
- Ask your child probing questions and engage them in an open conversation.
- Reassure them that they are not in trouble.
- Reach out for help for your child, and for you and your family. You may need a combination of assistance based on your child’s particular situation. 211 is a directory of social and support resources in Nova Scotia.
- If your child is being trafficked, call police at 490-5020.
Reporting human trafficking
If you witness suspicious activity you think may be linked to human trafficking, you should:
- Not intervene. You may put yourself and others at risk if you try to intervene. You could also inadvertently interfere with an ongoing investigation.
- Record all relevant information, including:
- descriptions of people
- locations and addresses of possible suspicious activity
- vehicle license plates and makes and models of vehicles
- description of suspicious activity
- Report it:
- 911 to report a situation where someone’s life is at risk or they require immediate assistance
- 902.490.5020 to report an incident requiring a police officer to attend the scene, e.g. you need an officer to collect evidence related to human trafficking
- 902.490.5016 to share information on human trafficking with police
- 1.800.222.8477 to make an anonymous tip to Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers.
Human trafficking resources for youth, parents and guardians
Human trafficking education campaigns
Say Something if you See Something
“Say Something if you See Something” is a human trafficking education and awareness campaign aimed at employees in the hospitality and transportation industries. It was originally launched in the United Kingdom and versions of the campaign have since been rolled out in communities in Canada and the United States.
Human trafficking can take place in all kinds of properties, from budget motels to luxury hotels and resorts, and air and ground transportation is often used to carry out these criminal acts.
Signs that someone may be the victim of human trafficking
- They may seem disoriented or disheveled.
- They may appear withdrawn and/or intimidated (rarely smile).
- They rarely, if ever, leave the premises or are escorted whenever they do.
- The person/people they’re with seems to be preventing them from moving about freely.
- They may be made up to look older than they really are.
- They may show signs of physical abuse.
- They are rarely left alone. The person/people they’re with are significantly older.
- They don’t have their own credit cards or forms of identification.
- They may have tattoos that mark ownership.
- International victims might have a very limited knowledge of English (if any) and will often travel with others, but one person will obviously be in charge of the group.
If someone is displaying signs that they are a victim of human trafficking and you also note some of the accompanying signs below, human trafficking may be occurring at your workplace.
Signs for tourism industry employees
- A person who refuses to leave a credit card imprint and insists on paying cash, or uses disposable or reloadable gift credit cards.
- Someone who books more than one room yet doesn’t appear to be with a large group. Often pimps will book one room as a base and use other rooms for sex workers to receive customers.
- There is an age difference between the adult and one or more of the young people with them. One person (male or female) is obviously in charge of the others (doing all the talking, etc.).
- Guests who have little or no luggage (possibly only a large shoulder bag).
- Guests who require a specific room that is isolated and private.
- Local guests who want to rent a room.
- Guests who appear secretive about their activities or who try to conceal activities in their room.
- Frequent visitors who don’t appear to have a reason for being in the hotel.
- Many different guests/visitors entering and exiting a room at regular intervals. A pimp will schedule as many appointments as possible each night to maximize profit.
- Guest rooms with lots of condoms or condom wrappers, lubricants, lingerie, sex toys, drugs, or drug paraphernalia.
- Guests who don’t want their rooms cleaned.
- Bookings completed online through a third party service for cheaper rates. Pimps often use this format for booking multiple rooms. Be aware and make sure you require appropriate identification.
If you suspect human trafficking is happening in your property, it's important to seal off the room once the guests have checked out and don’t allow anyone to enter until police arrive if you have the authority to do so.
Signs for taxi industry employees
- Taking/collecting people from hotels/B&Bs/house parties.
- Picking up people from other cars.
- Attempts by people to avoid paying fares in return for sexual favours.
- Regular customers requesting rides to and from locations and taking young people with them.
Signs for airline, airport, and bus employees
- Person arriving at the last minute and booking at the terminal.
- Person travelling with minimal luggage.
- Person refusing to leave a credit card imprint and insisting on paying cash, or using disposable or reloadable gift credit cards.
- Person who isn’t in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport), money, financial records or bank account.
- Person claiming to be visiting but unable to clarify where he/she is staying.
“Say Something if you See Something” campaign materials
The campaign is supported by a free resource kit that includes posters advising people that human trafficking/sexual exploitation is a crime, as well as brochures that outline what employees should look out for and how they should respond if they believe human trafficking/sexual exploitation is occurring at their workplace.