Two survivors of human trafficking, both about to graduate from the program at The House of Promise, shared a small piece of their stories with us: 


Traffickers often use tactics to gain power and control over their victims. Here are signs to watch out for:

  • Threatens to harm victim or family

  • Threatens to expose or shame victim

  • Threatens to report to police or immigration 

  • Harms other victims, children, or pets

  • Displays or uses weapons

  • Destroys Property

  • Lies about police involvement in trafficking situation 

  • Keeps confined

  • Accompanies to public places

  • Creates distrust of police/others

  • Moves victims to different locations

  • Doesn't allow victim to learn English or go to school

  • Denies access to children, family, and friends

  • Makes light of abuse or exploitation
  • Denies that anything illegal or exploitive is occurring
  • Places blame on the victim for the trafficking situation

What is human trafficking? 

Under U.S. law, trafficking in persons is defined as “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age;” or “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.” (Hope Against Trafficking)

  • Humiliates in front of others

  • Calls names

  • Plays mind games

  • Makes victim feel guilt/blame for situation

  • Convinces victim that they're the only one that cares about them

  • Uses sexual assault as punishment or means of control

  • Forces victim to have sex multiple times a day with strangers

  • Treats victim as an object for monetary gain

  • Normalizes sexual violence and selling sex


Red flags/warning signs

  • Unstable living situation.

  • History of domestic violence.

  • Frequent runaways or involved in the juvenile justice or foster care system.

  • Poverty or economic need.

  • History of sexual abuse.

  • Addiction to drugs or alcohol.

How to identify trafficking victims

  • A family member, friend, co-worker or student appears to be newly showered with gifts or money or otherwise become the object of some kind of overwhelming, fast-moving and asymmetric (young/older; wealthy/struggling) romantic relationship.

  • A family member, friend, co-worker or student is developing a relationship which seems “too close” with someone they know solely on social media.

  • A family member, friend or co-worker is offered a job opportunity that appears too good to be true.

  • A family member, friend or co-worker is recruited for an opportunity that requires them to move far away but their recruiter/prospective employer evades answering their questions or is reluctant to provide detailed information about the job.

Who is vulnerable? 

Human trafficking can happen to anyone but some people are more vulnerable than others. Significant risk factors include recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the child welfare system and being a runaway or homeless youth. Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency.


*Images derived from Polaris Project website.

Trafficking in Michigan

  • The term Human trafficking includes domestic activity where little or no transportation is required. It is a modern-day form of slavery, widespread throughout the United States and occurs right here in Michigan.

  • There were 94 federal cases of human trafficking and 100 state cases of human trafficking in the tri-county area (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb) in 2013 and 2014. Michigan State Police

  • Michigan’s proximity to the Canadian border and waterways increases the likelihood of trafficking in the state. The Hope Project

  • Michigan has had cases of traffickers prostituting minors to Michigan truck stops and then over to hotels in Toledo. Federal Bureau of Investigation (See also: Truckers Against Trafficking)

  • Toledo has been ranked as the 4th largest city in the U.S. for human trafficking.

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation

  • Cities in Michigan with the most calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and reported by The Polaris Project include:

    • Detroit

    • Grand Rapids

    • Ann Arbor

    • Kalamazoo

    • Lansing

    • Mackinac Island

  • Major gatherings of people, such as the North American International Auto Show, and major sporting events like the Super Bowl are prime targets for human trafficking. Michigan Rescue and Restore Coalition

  • In of March 2015, Michigan was ranked No. 2 for human trafficking sex trade behind only Nevada.

  • The State of Michigan, for understanding, managing and combating the issue of trafficking, has made great strides since 2014, having moved from a grade of F to a grade of B in 2015. Shared Hope International Protected Innocence Challenge

  • There are no long-term comprehensive programs designed to aide rescued women in need of healing and restoration from the trauma of human trafficking in Southeast Michigan.

*Information derived from the Hope for Human Trafficking website.

Take Action

Learn more about how you can get involved at: