Ask SAFE: What should I know about trafficking?

Written by SAFE

Logo that reads Ask SAFESex trafficking happens when one person is controlled through violence, deception, or coercion in situations of commercial sex. There are more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas, including almost 79,000 minors and youth, according to the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.

As awareness about this serious issue continues to grow, our SAFE CARES staff have answers to some common questions about sex trafficking.

I’ve seen a lot on the news lately about social media being used to lure potential victims into being trafficked for sex. I know my teenage children use social media; how can I make sure they stay safe online?

Social media and online platforms are used quite frequently for recruiting. It is a very simple way for traffickers to create a false identification and to lure young people in.

Being safe online starts with constant conversations at home. As the parent, you need to be an expert on your child. Often times, those who are being targeted on social media are individuals who are seeking  connection and validation because they are not receiving it anywhere else.

Watch for signs of lonliness and feeling as though they do not have a solid friend circle. Talk to your child about the dangers of trafficking and how individuals can create fake identities online.

Building trust between you and your child is important so you can expect honest and open answers when you ask about their online interactions and so your child feels comfortable coming to you if they ever have concerns about an encounter they have.

There are also many apps and services that parents can now purchase to monitor everything their child is doing on social media. You can learn more about a few of them here.

My daughter’s best friend recently started dating a much older man, and she said that he constantly buys her expensive clothes and jewelry. They only met a few weeks ago and I’m concerned that he’s not the nice guy she thinks he is. What should I do?

The fact that you are asking the question shows that your gut has already picked up on something that just doesn’t feel right. I would keep asking questions about the relationship when you are able.

Watch for signs of control, like being told what to wear, having to check in constantly, not being able to make decisions for herself, and being isolated from friends and family. I would have honest and open conversations with your daughter about safe and healthy relationships (check out these 10 signs of healthy relationships) and what worries you about her friend’s relationship.

Continue to educate yourself on all the signs of trafficking and keep asking your daughter’s friend if she feels safe. If you are concerned that they are being trafficked, contact the Human Trafficking Hotline or contact the SAFEline by phone at 512.267.SAFE (7233), text at 737.888.7233, or online chat at

I was at the airport last week and noticed a sign in the bathroom about reporting incidents of human trafficking to the police. However, I’m not sure that I know how to spot the signs of trafficking. What should I look out for?  

There are many different physical, behavioral, psychological, and medical indicators to pay attention to. Because this can be very complex, it makes it difficult to identify. However, there are some specific signs that raise red flags, such as:

    • Any sort of branding on their body, such as tattoos on their neck or chest of names or numbers
    • Bruising or injuries on the body
    • Being accompanied by someone that always speaks on their behalf or who they show fear around
    • Avoiding eye contact
    • Expensive manicures and hairstyles
  • Frequently running away