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(January 10, 2023, Salisbury, MD) January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor against their will. Three types of human trafficking are sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude.

About 27.6 million people globally are currently experiencing human trafficking. In the United States, 10,360 cases of human trafficking with 16,710 victims were identified in 2021. Conditions that make people vulnerable to human trafficking have not been addressed, and as a result, human trafficking continues to grow. Polaris names poverty, environmental destruction, structural racism and discrimination, and gender and economic inequity as underlying drivers of human trafficking around the world. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these conditions have worsened.

Human trafficking exists in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Anyone can experience human trafficking, regardless of race, nationality, age, and gender. Some people are at a greater risk of trafficking due to conditions like poverty, unstable housing, a history of trauma, or a history of addiction. Migrants, people of color, women, children, and LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be exploited for these vulnerabilities and face trafficking.

Kidnapping and physical force are rarely part of human trafficking. Traffickers are commonly people who are familiar. They can be business owners, bosses, family members, and intimate partners. Some traffickers search for victims online. Traffickers target people with needs, such as financial need, a need for shelter and other basic necessities, or a need for a sense of belonging. They make promises to fulfill these needs and use tactics, including physical and emotional abuse, threats, isolation from friends and family, and economic abuse, to gain control.

To help prevent human trafficking, community members can learn the signs. Common signs of labor trafficking include the following:

  • feeling pressured by their employer to stay in a job that they want to leave; by controlling their passport or other identity documents
  • owing money to an employer and/or not being paid what they were promised;
  • being monitored by another person when interacting with others; and
  • being threatened by their employer with deportation or other harm.

Common signs of sex trafficking include:

  • wanting to stop participating in sex work but feel scared or unable to leave;
  • disclosing that they were reluctant to engage in selling sex but that someone pressured them into it;
  • living where they work or being transported by guards between home and workplace;
  • having a pimp or manager in the sex trade; and
  • having an older and/or controlling parent, guardian, or romantic partner who monitors their movements, spending, and interactions.

To get help or to report human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, text 233733, or visit

If you or someone you know is in need of immediate local assistance, call Life Crisis Center at 410-749-HELP or visit their website

More information about human trafficking can be found on these websites:,, and Those who wish to learn more may also call Wicomico County Health Department, Prevention & Health Communications at 410-334-3480.

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