How does someone know if they are a victim of child trafficking?

Someone is a victim of child trafficking if they are under 18 years of age and are being sexually exploited or exploited for other reasons (like forced labor, forced or servile marriage, or forced begging). In Costa Rica, the law recognizes the following forms of exploitation:

Some children and adolescents are exploited in more than one way, for example:

– exploited to work in a bar and to provide sexual services to clients;

– exploited to clean someone’s home and forced to have sexual relations with that person.

Even if someone is not a trafficking victim, every vulnerable child and adolescent in Costa Rica is entitled to protection and support.

I think I know someone who may be a trafficking victim, but they think their situation now is better than the life they had before. Why should they seek out help?

Trafficking victims (adults and children) have the right to many forms of assistance and support, including for themselves and for their family members. This includes:

As a trafficking victim, they will have access to all services that can support their recovery and help them to build new life. They do not need to go back to what their life was like before.

I think I know someone under age 18 who may be a trafficking victim, but they don’t want to report to the police. Can they still get help?

A victim does not have to personally report their case to the police to access the services available to them. A child or adolescent trafficking victim can talk about their situation with any practitioner, who should refer them to PANI for protection and support.

While a child or adolescent does not need to report their case to the police, PANI staff and other practitioners are required to report trafficking cases to the Prosecutor’s Office, OIJ, or the Professional Migration Police.

This means that PANI staff will communicate with criminal justice officials to explain what happened to the victim. Before PANI staff do this, they should explain the process to the victim and make sure they know their rights and options. Practitioners must always keep a trafficking victim’s information protected (confidential).

A victim has the right to choose whether or not to participate in the criminal justice process (including making a statement or serving as a victim-witness). They have the right to change their mind about this at any point. Regardless of whether or not a trafficking victim participates in the criminal justice process, PANI must provide protection and coordination for all the services that children and adolescents may need to be safe and healthy.

Once PANI is contacted, they must provide a child or adolescent with the information and guidance they need to make decisions and get help.

How can victims deal with the terrible experiences they have had?

Human trafficking victims who have been trafficked have bad feelings (such as feeling anxious, worried, stressed, sad, scared, angry, and depressed). Many children have also been physically hurt and harmed. There are professionals who can help a child or adolescent feel better in their body and their mind, and practitioners should assist them to access the services they need.

What if a child or adolescent participated (or was forced to participate) in illegal activities while they were trafficked?

In Costa Rica, the law (Law 9095) says that trafficking victims should not be criminalized for illegal things that they were forced to do while trafficked. All possible child and adolescent trafficking victims should be treated as victims and provided with protection and support.

If a child or adolescent's parents sent them to Costa Rica to have a better life, could they still be a trafficking victim?

Yes. A child or adolescent can be a trafficking victim regardless of whether their parents or guardians agreed to the arrangements.

Can boys be trafficking victims?

Yes, boys can be victims of trafficking. Any child or adolescent can be a trafficking victim. Children and adolescents of all genders and sexual identities can be trafficking victims. They may be trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labor, begging, or any other form of exploitation.

All child and adolescent trafficking victims are entitled to protection and assistance, regardless of gender or sexual identity.

If someone is being exploited but agreed to do the "work", "tasks" or "favors" that they are doing, can they still be a trafficking victim?

Yes, a person can still be a trafficking victim even if they have agreed to the work, sex, or sex-related activities. Even if they signed a contract they can still be a trafficking victim.

If someone agreed to enter Costa Rica without proper documents, can they still be a trafficking victim?

Yes. Some people enter the country illegally but are tricked or forced into an unexpected situation (for example, forced to work or engage in sex or sex-related activities). If a person is from another country and is being exploited in Costa Rica, they are entitled to protection and assistance, including help getting back home if that is what they want.

What happens if exploitation or trafficking took place but no one knows about it? Can a victim still get help?

Yes. Even if a child or adolescent has never told anyone about their bad experiences, they can still get help. Even if the bad experiences happened a long time ago, they can still get help. Even if they were exploited when they were a minor and are now over age 18, they can still get help.

What if victims are addicted to drugs or alcohol? Can they get help?

Yes. All victims of trafficking can receive assistance. There are also specific services available to help children and adolescents who misuse drugs and/or alcohol and need help to overcome this addiction.

A trafficker told their victim that they will hurt them if they call the police or ask for help. Is this true?

Sometimes traffickers hurt or threaten to hurt victims and their families if they talk to the police or ask for help. They do this to control victims and prevent victims from escaping or seeking out help. Traffickers may also tell victims this because they are trying to avoid being caught by the police. If someone is being threatened or feels in danger from their trafficker, there are people who can protect them and ensure that they are safe.

In an emergency, call 9-1-1

Ask a question.

Developed by Warnath Group


The development of the IACT Learning Hub was funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the developers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State.