How to Identify and Assist a Victim of Trafficking




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How to Spot Trafficking at an Airport

Sex trafficking is a big business in South Africa and around the world. Why do so few people notice it?


Every time a new horror story about sex trafficking surfaces, about women held for years against their will, or forced to be child brides, or ensnared in a prostitution ring, the same question also surfaces: why didn’t anyone notice anything?



Hiding in Plain Sight

One of the reasons sex trafficking is frequently overlooked is that it’s hiding in plain sight. Victims are not always bundled across borders in cars, vans with blacked out windows, or transported in shipping containers. Sometimes they’re simply brought in with thousands of other international travellers on an airplane, and are sexually exploited at a local hotel.


Law enforcement authorities are beginning to work together with businesses, particularly hotels and airlines, to spot people who are being moved around against their will. While many of their techniques are proprietary, and the companies don’t want to say too much about them, there are a few measures that anyone might use.

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Asking the Right Questions

Delta airline employees are now being trained to ask certain questions at check-in, Letty Ashworth, general manager of global diversity for Delta, told a packed Concordia Summit symposium on human trafficking in New York City on 29 September 2014. They’re told to carefully watch for anyone whose documents are not in their own possession. “If for instance you are at a gate and there is an unaccompanied minor, do they know the name of the person they’re traveling with, or where they’re going?” she said.



Crewmembers also watch for unusual activity on a plane, such as when kids don’t answer questions, or avoid eye contact when addressed. Other tell-tale signs might be bruising, or other wounds, or a ravenous appetite.


Trafficking Victims are Also Local

Don’t expect trafficking victims to be foreign: 83% of people forced into prostitution in the U.S. are from the U.S. They’re often runaways and sometimes have been at the mercy of their traffickers for so long they see themselves not as women being pimped out for sex but as girlfriends helping their boyfriend pay the bills. “We’ve had women testify on behalf of their abuser, that they loved them and were not there against their will,” even though they had been severely abused, said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance at the event. He’s seen at least one woman tattooed with a barcode by her trafficker, as a mark of ownership.


Vance’s office is also working with hotels to prosecute sex traffickers. One of the big red flags is people who have a pattern of frequently booking a series of hotel rooms on a credit card then paying in cash.


Choose to Care

The response that trafficking activists are hoping for is similar to the response for suspected acts of terror: “If you see something say something.” Vance is a bit more circumspect. “First people have to decide they care about it,” he said in an interview. “Unless you acknowledge that it happens and are prepared to talk about it, it’s not going to change. It all starts at the grass roots.” Belinda Luscombe 30 September 2014,

How to Identify and Assist a Trafficking Victim

Everyone has the potential to discover a human trafficking situation. While the victims may sometimes be kept behind locked doors, they are often hidden right in front of us at, for example, construction sites, restaurants, nail salons, agricultural fields, and hotels. Traffickers’ use of coercion, such as threats of deportation and harm to the victim or their family members, is so powerful that even if you reach out to victims, they may be too fearful to accept your help. Knowing indicators of human trafficking and some follow up questions will help you act on your gut feeling that something is wrong and report it.


Human Trafficking Indicators

While not an exhaustive list, these are some key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:

  • Seems anxious, fearful or paranoid.  Avoids eye contact.
  • Tearfulness or signs of depression.
  • Unexplained bruises or cuts or other signs of physical abuse.
  • Appears to be in a relationship with someone who is dominating.
  • Never is alone and/or always has someone translating or answering questions on their behalf. 
  • Not in control of their own finances.
  • Presents with secrecy or unable to answer questions about where they live. 
  • Inconsistent details when telling their story. 
  • Has no identification such as a license, passport or other ID documents.
  • Inability to leave their job or residence.  Says they cannot schedule appointments.
  • Being a recent arrival to the country and does not speak English.
  • Is under 18 and providing commercial sex acts.  Or at any age unwillingly providing commercial sex acts. 
  • Is afraid of law enforcement, or receiving help from an outside entity.


Questions to Ask

Assuming you have the opportunity to speak with a potential victim privately and without jeopardizing the victim’s safety, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags you became alert to:

  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
  • Has your family been threatened?
  • Do you live with your employer?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Are you in debt to your employer?
  • Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?


Where to Get Help

If you believe you have identified someone still in the trafficking situation, alert law enforcement immediately through the anti-trafficking organisations numbers provided below. It may be unsafe to attempt to rescue a trafficking victim. You have no way of knowing how the trafficker may react and retaliate against the victim or you. If, however, you identify a victim who has escaped the trafficking situation, there are a number of organizations to whom the victim could be referred for help with shelter, medical care, legal assistance, and other critical services. In this case, call the National Human Trafficking helpline: 0800-222-777, S-Cape: 021-788-8207 or Stop Trafficking of People: 081-720-7181.


"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves." Proverbs 31:8


What Can I do to Stop Human Trafficking?

Educate your community on how to avoid being trafficked.

Invite Africa Christian Action (021-689-4480) or STOP Trafficking of People (081-720-7181) to present an anti-trafficking awareness presentation to your school, church, or community group.


Report Prostitution to the National Freedom Network

The Vice Squad are a unit of the Cape Town Metro Police, tasked specifically with cracking down on the exploitative practice of prostitution. Over the last few years, they have conducted numerous raids on brothels in the Cape Town area and have helped to uncover several cases of trafficking and child prostitution. They have been able to shut down some brothels for not having a business licence. Trafficked victims are taken to shelters and child prostitutes are restored to their families, where appropriate. Prostitution is still illegal in South Africa according to the Sexual Offences Act, although this law is rarely enforced by SA Police. If you suspect that a house in your area may be operating as a brothel, or if streets in your neighbourhood are affected by prostitution (especially if you see girls under the age of 18 being prostituted), please report this to the National Freedom Network Helpline: 0800-222-777.


Invite a Speaker

Invite a speaker from Africa Christian Action (021-689-4480), STOP Trafficking of People (081-720-7181), or Straatwerk (021-930-8055) to motivate and mobilise your school, youth group, or congregation to prayer and action on this issue.


Volunteer your Time or Support a Shelter

Volunteer at, or support Doctors for Life outreach centre to prostitutes in Durban - Life Place. Contact: 032-481-5550, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ,


Volunteer at, or support the work of Vileli in Tzaneen, run by Stop Trafficking of People. Vileli is a drop-in centre and skills training programme, which assists people in prostitution to leave the industry. Contact: 081-720-7181, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ,


S-Cape run a shelter for victims of trafficking in the Cape Town area. You can support them by volunteering, giving skills training to the residents, or by donating toiletries, cleaning products, or food, such as rice and sugar. Victims receive care and discipleship and, by partnering with other organisations, they will be repatriated, or reintroduced into society. To volunteer at, or support them, contact S-Cape Home: 021-788-8207 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ,



To print out and distribute our tract, click here (colour) and clickhere (black and white).

Nefarious and Whistleblower films can be screened to your church group.

For other resources for making a difference in your community.

See the Traffick Proof Facebook page.


Participate in our Women’s Day Outreaches

On Monday, 10 August 2020, Women’s Day, Africa Christian Action will be setting up literature tables in at least three different shopping malls in the Cape Town area. We will be offering free literature from our tables to all interested people, primarily focusing on informing and motivating people to make a difference in stopping human trafficking.


Cape Town: Volunteers Needed!

Contact us if you would like to get involved in any of the outreaches. We will slot you in at a time that is convenient for you. If possible, join us for a morning, or afternoon shift. The morning shift starts at 9:00 am. The afternoon shift starts at 12:00 noon. This is a great opportunity for one-on-one evangelism, discussions and counselling.


"Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for Me against the workers of iniquity?" Psalm 94:16


Africa Christian Action

PO Box 23632

Claremont 7735

Cape Town South Africa

Tel: 021-689-4480

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See also:

Stop the Traffick!

Women’s Day Awareness Campaigns Against Human Trafficking

The Christian Liberation of Womentract

Exposing and Opposing Slavery Todayvideo

William Wilberforce – Setting the Captives Free

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa - 021-689-4481 -
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