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What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, or obtaining of a person for labor or sex services through the use of:

  • Force – physical abuse (beating, slapping, burning), sexual assault, confinement
  • Fraud – false promises, withholding wages, lying about work conditions, promises of a better life, preying on desperation and poverty
  • Coercion – threats of serious physical harm to victim or their loved ones, intimidation, emotional abuse, creating dependency, blackmail with pornographic images, threat of legal repercussions

 Examples of human trafficking can include:

  • Prostitution on the streets or in a residence, club, hotel, spa or massage parlor
  • Online commercial sexual exploitation
  • Exotic dancing or stripping
  • Agricultural, factory or meatpacking work; construction; domestic labor
  • Illegal drug trade
  • Door-to-door sales, street peddling or begging

Many people confuse human trafficking with smuggling. In human trafficking, no transportation or border crossing is required. People can be trafficked by people they know or even family members right in their own homes.

What is Commercial Sexual Exploitation?

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a global problem that could be happening right in your neighborhood. The commercial sex industry victimizes boys, girls and transgendered youth. CSEC occurs when individuals buy, trade or sell sexual acts with a child. A commercial sexual act occurs when anything of value is given to or received in exchange for a sexual act.

Examples of CSEC can include:

  • Images of child sexual abuse
  • Intra-familial exploitation of children and youth
  • Exotic dance or performance
  • Sex tourism
  • Cyber-enticement
  • Domestic minor sex trafficking

A homeless youth receives shelter from an adult “friend,” who asks her to sleep with a few of his buddies, to help pay the rent
A teen in foster care runs away, is picked up by two men in a car on the highway, and is coerced into prostitution
A mother “rents” her children to a pedophile, to support her drug addiction

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a global problem and one that impacts children in THIS community.

SHFL’s Anti-Trafficking Program partners with the Yates County Youth Bureau to promote awareness & identification of youth trafficking and provides comprehensive, victim-centered services to all potential victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.


SHFL offers case management coordination and advocacy to potential commercially sexually exploited victims. SHFL Advocates can help victims access emergency shelter, medical care, mental health counseling, and financial assistance as well as address other safety needs. We provide accompaniment to court, medical appointments and other essential appointments. Advocates provide assistance in applying for Office of Victim Services benefits. For more information regarding our advocacy services, click here.

Professional Training

Professional education is a key element in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation of children. Deficits in awareness and understanding among professionals who work with children contribute to low identification of those who are at high risk, as well as those who are actively being trafficked and exploited in the commercial sex industry. SHFL staff are able to schedule training around commercial sexual exploitation of youth and human trafficking. Each training is tailored for the audience (professional, community, etc) and can be designed to meet your needs. 

Prevention Education

SHFL is a licensed Love146 Not a #Number location. Not a #Number is an interactive, five-module prevention curriculum designed to teach youth how to protect themselves from human trafficking and exploitation through information, critical thinking, and skill development. Not a #Number uses a holistic approach focusing on respect, empathy, individual strengths, and the relationship between personal and societal pressures that create or increase vulnerabilities. For more information on the Love146 curriculum click here.  

Detecting Child Trafficking

While it’s important for all children to learn at an appropriate age, some children are at higher risk for child trafficking. What does child trafficking look like? There are many myths surrounding trafficking. If you are a professional who works with youth, or a parent, it’s important to know what you should be looking for in order to seek assistance.

High Risk Youth

High risk doesn’t necessarily mean specific warning signs of trafficking but provides us with insight on what communities are best to target for education and assistance. The following demographics in children tend to be at higher risk for child trafficking:

  • Low socioeconomic status
  • History of abuse and/or neglect
  • Exposure to violence
  • History of alcohol or substance abuse
  • Mental health diagnosis
  • Increased experimentation with sexual behavior/risky behavior
  • Displaced from home
  • Low self-esteem or self-worth 

Red Flags of Child Trafficking

These warning signs indicate that something may not be right. One of these alone doesn’t necessarily indicate trafficking but can also indicate other issues such as abuse. If some of these sound familiar with a child, you should reach out to us immediately. 

  • Is under 18 years old and performs commercial sex acts
  • Is excessively monitored or controlled by parents, a supposed guardian or older partner or “sponsor” who claims to provide for their upbringing and needs, or who insists on speaking for them or being present at all times
  • Detached or (suddenly) isolated from majority of family members and friends
  • Is unable to give answers about their schedules or living and work locations/conditions; appears to possibly work and live in the same building or location
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story; contradictory personal information (age, place of birth, family life)
  • Has excessive security measures at his/her home or work (i.e., security cameras, boarded or covered windows); constant traffic of men at his/her home or work location
  • Noticeable change in dress, jewelry, hair or nails without explainable source of income
  • Shows signs of physical or sexual abuse (bruises, cuts, burns, submissiveness, jumpy, malnourishment); appears fearful, anxious, depressed, overly submissive, and avoids eye contact
  • Suffers from substance abuse problems (alcohol and/or drugs), an array of other psychological disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, or chronic illnesses
  • Carries multiple hotel key cards, lots of money, sharp objects (weapons)
  • Sudden presence of an older boyfriend
  • Tattoo with a name that is not their own; or that he/she is reluctant to explain