Don’t Be a Victim
Understand the Red Flags of Exploitation
After high school, many of you will be on your own for the first time. A new school or a new job can mean a new city, living with people you’ve never met, and being surrounded by strangers. These factors can increase your vulnerability to something you think may only happen to other people: exploitation in the form of human trafficking.
Mike Furdock, a third-year law student at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, has made it his mission to end human trafficking. He’s found his calling in victim advocacy and plans for a career in civil litigation.
Here are the biggest red flags Furdock says you should be aware of:
Abuse of Trust or Guilt
Many victims of human trafficking are lured in by a family member or friend. They trust them, or else they are made to feel guilty for not trusting them. Be alert for emotional manipulation, and never feel bad about not wanting to push your limits or do something that makes you uncomfortable.
The BFF Alarm
If you start dating someone new, and your BFF consistently gets a bad vibe from them, hear ’em out. In the “honeymoon phase” of a new relationship, it can be hard to see potential danger, but it’s worth being extra careful. This is especially true if your new hottie doesn’t seem to like your BFF and doesn’t want to hang out as a group.
Lavish Gifts and Promises
We all learn as kids not to take candy from strangers. As adults, we should apply this to other lures, like car rides, luxury goods, or even party invitations. Furdock says that lots of trafficking cases start out with peer-to-peer interactions, so be wary of this behavior from friends of friends.
Arbitrary Boundaries (or none at all)
Another person should not dictate when or how much you see friends or participate in other activities. This can sometimes come across as “normal” jealousy or a flattering desire to be together, but it’s also one of the first steps in “grooming,” or gaining a victim’s trust and devotion through control. If someone in your life is trying to set limits on what you do without them (or isn’t respecting the limits that you set), get out. At best, it’s the start of an unhealthy relationship. At worst, it can lead to trafficking.
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888