Jan. 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, when we draw attention to the insidious human rights issue that lurks within our own Henrico County community.

“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will.”


Behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking, human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry and reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of that number, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized countries such as the U.S. traffickers exploit their victims by forcing them into prostitution, subjecting them to slavery or involuntary servitude and compelling them to commit sex acts to create pornography. According to some estimates, approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, and 19% involves labor exploitation.

There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today, and according to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. About 80% of them are female and half are children. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-years-old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.

Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.

Bringing awareness to the issue of human trafficking can help survivors find resources, support and safety. If you suspect you have encountered a situation involving human trafficking, or if you or someone you know is being trafficked, help is available. The following are “red flags” identified by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center that could indicate someone is a victim of trafficking. However, this is not an exhaustive list and every situation is different. If these red flags are present, you can report your concerns and get support by calling the free and confidential Greater Richmond Regional Hotline: 804.612.6126.

Watch for these common red flags

Common Work and Living Conditions:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior:

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health:

  • Lacks medical care and/or is denied medical services by employer
  • Appears malnourished or shows signs of repeated exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control:

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)


  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or of what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

The presence of these red flags could indicate that further assessment is needed, and you can take action by calling the free and confidential Greater Richmond Regional Hotline: 804.612.6126.