Recognizing and Reporting Human Trafficking in Florida

Course #97110 - $15 • 2 Hours/Credits

Self-Assessment Questions

    1 . How is human smuggling different from human trafficking?
    A) The individual has been forced or coerced into a country.
    B) The individual willingly volunteered to enter the new country.
    C) Specific gender differences exist, as those who get smuggled into the new country are typically men.
    D) The perpetrators who bring the individual into the new country often utilize legal means to get them in.


    In essence, this definition involves three elements: the transport of the person, the force or coercion of the victim, and the abuse and exploitation [14]. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime divides the definition of human trafficking into three sections: the act, means, and purpose [15]. The act, or what is done, generally refers to activities such as recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons. The means of trafficking consists of threats or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim. Finally, these acts are carried out for the purpose of exploitation, which includes prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or forced servitude, and the removal of organs [15]. It is important to remember that human trafficking is not human smuggling. Human smuggling involves an individual being brought into a country through illegal means and is voluntary. The individual has provided some remuneration to another individual or party to accomplish this goal [16].

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    2 . Domestic servitude is a
    A) form of forced labor.
    B) form of sexual trafficking.
    C) form of child work in many developing countries.
    D) term that refers to trafficking confined to the United States.


    Domestic servitude refers to a category of domestic workers (usually female) who work as servants, housekeepers, maids, and/or caregivers, often in private homes. In some cases, young women are lured with the promise of a good education and work, and when they arrive in the United States, they are exploited economically, physically, and/or sexually. Their passports or identification papers are taken away, and they are told they have to pay off the debt incurred for their travel, processing fees, and any other bogus expenses. Because they do not speak English, they find they have no other recourse but to endure exploitive working conditions [30]. Unfortunately, as in many sectors of forced labor, there are no regulations to monitor the conditions under which domestic servants operate [29].

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    3 . How does digital technology play a role in human trafficking?
    A) It helps to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
    B) It makes identifying potential victims more difficult.
    C) The Internet can create a greater supply of slaves, which then brings down the cost.
    D) Young women may be purchased to perform sexual acts, with graphic images then sent via the Internet for purchase.


    The rampant use of digital technology, such as the Internet, greatly facilitates sex trafficking. The relative anonymity of online contact can empower traffickers to recruit or sell victims. Graphic images of women and children engaged in sexual acts can be easily disseminated over the Internet [53]. Traffickers may employ the Internet for advertising, marketing to those interested in making pornography [53]. In addition, social media sites such as Facebook, Craigslist, and Instagram have been used as a means of facilitating trafficking (e.g., by connecting and grooming potential victims) [54,55,56]. Newsgroups offer opportunities for those interested in locating women and children for sexual exploitation.

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    4 . Which of the following is NOT an example of how culture can contribute to human trafficking?
    A) Beliefs that girls are less valued than boys makes them more dispensable.
    B) Values that emphasize collectivism may encourage victims to sacrifice themselves for their family.
    C) Myths that certain races or ethnicities are more erotic and exotic do not affect sex trafficking patterns.
    D) In some cultures, it is believed that children in lower socioeconomic/cultural groups should be taught early on to understand their positions in life.


    Race and ethnicity have been inextricably linked to sexual violence and victimization. Myths regarding sexuality in certain cultures or racial fetishization may affect trafficking patterns. For example, there is an over-representation of Asian women on American Internet pornography sites in part due to popular myths sexualizing, eroticizing, and exoticizing Asian women. This has translated into trafficking, as traffickers respond to the demand for young Asian women and girls in part fueled by these stereotypes of exotic, docile, submissive, and eager-to-please Asian women [30]. These stereotypes devalue and dehumanize people, which is the underlying core of human trafficking. This contributes to the acceptability of the exploitation of individuals, particularly members of marginalized groups [57].

    These racial stereotypes go beyond simply framing the victims in a particular manner [58]. They raise implicit questions regarding how the powers of state are depicted. In other words, the patriarchal attitudes of certain countries lead to "bad" or "backward" cultural practices or ways of being that then cause trafficking—setting up is a dichotomy of the "West" and "others" [58].

    Although many are careful in linking cultural factors to the etiology of human trafficking for fear of imposing judgment on a particular culture, many maintain that cultural ideologies that tolerate sexual trafficking, bonded labor, and child labor may be a stronger factor than poverty in predicting trafficking rates [30,36]. For example, some cultures emphasize collectivism and prioritizing the needs of the family and group first before the needs of the individual. Some children may feel they have to sacrifice themselves for their family when traffickers promise money [30]. Traffickers also know that they can threaten to hurt victims' families to keep them from escaping [30].

    Furthermore, in many cultures, boys are more highly valued than girls, and as a result, girls are considered more dispensable [30]. Sons are considered the family's social security, staying with the family while daughters marry into other families. Therefore, girls may be more likely to be sold into slavery than boys.

    Child labor is also inextricably tied to cultural factors. In India, for example, child labor is common because it is believed that children in the lower levels of caste system (i.e., the "untouchables") should be socialized early to understand their positions in society [36]. It has been observed that when traditional cultural and societal norms about women's roles were relaxed in some European countries and more women entered the labor force, child labor decreased [36]. Ultimately, it is difficult to unravel the effects of poverty and culture because the pressures of poverty can lead families to use tradition as a justification to sacrifice young men, women, and children [36].

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    5 . Which of the following is a method of recruitment used by human traffickers?
    A) Promises of employment
    B) Convincing poor families to sell their children
    C) Collaborating with storefronts who pretend they are employment agencies
    D) All of the above


    It has been suggested human traffickers employ five general strategies to recruit and traffic victims [64,65,66,67]:

    • Kidnapping: Traffickers may kidnap their victims. They may lure them with food or treats or take them by force. Victims with few if any social ties are highly vulnerable, as no one will miss them or report their disappearance.

    • Targeting poor families: Traffickers may convince families to sell their children (often daughters). Because many families in developing countries live in abject poverty, traffickers will stress to victims' families how the money will help them to survive. Other traffickers may tell families that selling their daughter will provide her with more promising opportunities.

    • Developing a false romantic relationship with victim: A tactic often used with young girls, perpetrators pose as boyfriends by romancing victims, buying gifts, and proclaiming their love. Victims have a difficult time believing that their boyfriends would hurt or deceive them, making them easy targets for trafficking.

    • Fake storefronts: Some employment, modeling, or marriage agencies are fronts for illegal trafficking operations. A potential victim might be lured with the promise of employment, a lucrative modeling contract, or an arranged marriage in the United States. After victims have been lured in, traffickers come to assess their "product." Perpetrators may be family members or friends.

    • Legal storefronts: Some legal businesses in the tourism, entertainment, and leisure industries integrate trafficking activities into their business structure.

    • Recruiting local prostitutes: Traffickers might purchase prostitutes working in local night clubs from brothel owners or simply lure prostitutes by promising them a more affluent future. Women working as prostitutes may later recruit younger victims.

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    6 . Which of the following statements about the psychologic consequences of human trafficking is FALSE?
    A) For some human trafficking victims, the feelings of shame lead to self-destructive behaviors.
    B) Post-traumatic stress disorder is a universal diagnostic category and should be used for all human trafficking victims.
    C) There seems to be an association between those who had greater levels of revenge and higher levels of PTSD among former child soldiers.
    D) Some victims may have substance abuse problems because traffickers may force sex trafficking victims to take drugs in order to perform sexual acts.


    Victims of trafficking experience a host of psychologic, mental health, and emotional distress. Depression, suicidal ideation, substance use, and anxiety are typically cited mental health problems [23]. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also common given the trauma many victims experience, including physical and/or sexual violence and abuse; victims forced into prostitution experience continual, daily sexual assault [73]. In a study of 192 European women who were trafficked but who managed to escape, the overwhelming majority (95%) disclosed that they experienced physical and sexual violence during the time of their trafficked experience [74]. More than 90% reported sexual abuse, and 76% reported physical abuse.

    Trafficked victims experience fear from the start of their capture through the transit phase and after they arrive at their destination. During the transit stage, many victims experience dangerous border crossings, risky types of transports, injury, beatings, and sexual assault [61]. Upon arrival to their destination, many trafficking victims have been socially isolated, held in confinement, and deprived of food [75]. All sense of security is stripped from them—their personal possessions, identity papers, passports, visas, and other documents [61,75]. The continual fear for their personal safety and their families' safety and the perpetual threats of deportation ultimately breed a sense of loss of control and learned helplessness. It is not surprising that depression, anxiety, and PTSD are common symptoms experienced by trafficked victims.

    In a study of 164 survivors of human trafficking who returned to Nepal, the authors examined the extent to which they experienced PTSD, depression, and anxiety [76]. All of the survivors experienced some level of these disorders, but the survivors who were trafficked for sex experienced higher levels of depression and PTSD compared to those who were not trafficked for sex. In a study with Moldovan survivors of human trafficking, researchers found that six months after their return, 54% had diagnosable mental health issue. Specifically, 35.8% met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, 12.5% met the criteria for major depression, and 5.8% were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder [77].

    There is also some evidence that trafficked victims may experience complex PTSD, a type of PTSD that involves an acute change of the victims' sense of self, their relationship with others, and their relationship with God or higher being [78]. These persons direct anger inwardly (toward themselves) in addition to toward their perpetrators, which results in a loss of faith in themselves and the world [63,75,78]. Perhaps due to self-directed anger and shame, some will engage in risky sexual behaviors, self-harm, and substance abuse. Some victims also have difficulty managing and expressing how they are feeling, while others experience dissociation [75].

    Substance abuse is also common among victims. In interviews, trafficked women discussed how traffickers forced them to use substances like drugs and/or alcohol so they could work longer hours, take on more clients, and/or perform sexual acts that they could not normally [61]. Other victims used substances as a means to cope with their situations. Trafficked individuals who are gender and/or sexual minorities report shame, confusion, and sexual identity issues if forced into heterosexual relationships [63].

    Children forced into labor experience grueling hours and are frequently beaten by their captors. According to Clawson and Goldblatt, underage victims of domestic sex trafficking fluctuate through a range of emotions from despair, shame, guilt, hopelessness, anxiety, and fear [79]. Depending upon the level of trauma, some engage in self-destructive behaviors like self-mutilation or suicide attempts. For some, their ambivalence toward the perpetrators may be confusing. On the one hand, they want to escape the abuse, yet simultaneously, they may have a sort of traumatic bond with the perpetrators [79].

    Children forced into conscription will also experience a host of psychologic symptoms. In a study comparing former Nepalese child soldiers and children who were never conscripted, former child soldiers experienced higher levels of depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychologic difficulties, and functional impairments [80]. In another study of former children soldiers from the Congo and Uganda, one-third met the criteria for PTSD [43]. The researchers found there was a relationship between greater levels of PTSD symptoms and higher levels of feelings of revenge and lower levels of openness to reconciliation [43]. In-depth narrative interviews of former child soldiers from northern Uganda found that the children spoke of the violence and atrocities they witnessed without any emotion, as if they had removed themselves from their experiences [81]. This speaks to how the victims have to numb themselves psychologically in order to cope. The researchers also found that the children who lost their mothers were more traumatized by this experience than the violence they witnessed as soldiers.

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    7 . Child laborers who work in agricultural fields might be more susceptible to certain cancers due to
    A) lack of sleep.
    B) poor nutrition.
    C) their rapid growth.
    D) their thinner epidermal layers.


    Under normal circumstances, young children are still developing physically; however, such adverse conditions can halt their development. The lungs of adolescent boys typically experience the most rapid growth around 13 to 17 years of age; working in conditions characterized by excessive toxic dust or unclean air makes them more vulnerable to developing silicosis and fibrosis [88]. In the United States, young children participating in agricultural work are at risk of the major traumas associated with farm work, such as injuries caused by tractors or falling from heights, in addition to those injuries associated with repetitive stress and exposure to toxins. Children have thinner layers of epidermis, which make them more vulnerable to the toxicity of pesticides, and this can ultimately increase their risks for certain cancers [88]. Children working in gold mines do intensive digging, lifting, and transporting and mix mercury with the crushed ore, often with their bare hands. Mercury toxicity can lead to neurologic symptoms such as loss of vision, tremors, and memory loss [89].

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    8 . What should a practitioner consider when interviewing a victim of human trafficking?
    A) Be spontaneous and act in accordance with what the victim says.
    B) Assess the level of secondary traumatization experienced by the victim.
    C) Bypass informed consent because it may be threatening to the victim.
    D) Assess if an interpreter is needed and ensure the interpreter is knowledgeable about the dynamics of human trafficking.


    Service providers should repeatedly weigh the risks and benefits of various actions when interviewing human trafficking victims [65,99,100]. The following interviewing recommendations were published by the World Health Organization to encourage service providers to continually and ethically promote human trafficking victims' safety during every phase of the interviewing process [93,101]:

    • Each victim and trafficking situation should be treated as unique; there are no standard templates of experiences. Listen carefully to the victim's story. Each story told is unique, and each patient will voice distinctive concerns. Believe each story, no matter how incredible it may seem. As rapport and trust build (perhaps very slowly), accounts may become more extensive.

    • Always be safe and assume the victim is at risk of physical, psychologic, social, and legal harm.

    • Evaluate the risks and benefits of interviewing before starting the interviewing process. The interviewing process should not invoke more distress. In other words, the interviewing process should not end up re-traumatizing the victim.

    • Provide referrals for services where necessary; however, it is necessary to be realistic and not make promises that cannot be kept. Trust is vital because it has been severed on so many levels for trafficking victims.

    • Victims' readiness to change will not be based on what societal defines as "ready" or social expectations. Some victims will eagerly grasp new opportunities, while others may be fearful of potential traffickers' threat and be less receptive to help.

    • Determine the need for interpreters and if other service providers should be present during the interviewing phase. Ensure that everyone involved is adequately prepared in their knowledge about human trafficking, how perpetrators control their victims, and how to ask questions in a culturally sensitive manner. Keep in mind that often times, traffickers will offer to help with the interpreting. Using interpreters from the same community of the victim should be avoided to prevent breaches in confidentiality.

    • All involved should be prepared for an emergency plan. For example, is there a set plan for a victim who indicates he/she is suicidal or in danger of being hurt?

    • Always be sure to obtain informed consent. Remember the informed consent process is going to be unfamiliar to many victims. In addition, self-determination and autonomy have been compromised by continual threats and being forced to commit dehumanizing acts. Avoid using legal and technical jargon.

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    9 . If a practitioner suspects an individual is a victim of human trafficking, who should he/she contact?
    A) The suspected perpetrator
    B) A local social service agency
    C) Executive director of the agency
    D) The National Human Trafficking Hotline


    If screening and assessment findings indicate that an individual may be a victim of human trafficking, one should contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. A text telephone (TTY) option for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired can be accessed by dialing 711. Reporting by text is available by texting the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733. Online chat is also accessible at

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    10 . What is one of the concerns about the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)?
    A) They do not have access to the Witness Protection Program.
    B) Counseling services are not culturally congruent and sensitive.
    C) The T-Visas are not issued with long enough time periods for the victim to adjust in the new country.
    D) The responsibility lies with the victim to provide evidence that he/she was coerced into the human trafficking situation.


    One of the criticisms of the Act is that it places the burden of demonstrating innocence and coercion on the victim [112]. The Act also fails to recognize the complex dynamics of human trafficking. For example, it focuses more on sex trafficking versus other forms [113]. Many victims have been abused and terrorized by the perpetrators, who they must now provide information and evidence against to stay in the country. Victims are continually fearful that they will be deported [112].

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