How to Spot a Trafficking Victim at an Airport

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 D.A. Cyrus Vance at the event. He’s seen at least one woman tattooed with a barcode by her trafficker, as a mark of ownership.

TIME

Every time a new horror story about sex trafficking pops up on our radars, 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?

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 travelers on an airplane, and forced to service johns 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…

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