Indicators are signs or signals that a person may be a trafficking victim.

Indicators or signals of child trafficking may be based on conversations and interactions with the individual, as well as observation of their behavior, appearance, or circumstances.

Indicators offer critical guidance in the initial screening for preliminary identification, but they must be applied with some care and caution. Usually, several indicators are present at the same time. However, even if only one indicator is detected, the situation should be assessed in order to determine whether the individual is a potential trafficking victim or in another situation of vulnerability or abuse.

The presence of indicators does not mean that trafficking in persons has been firmly established. The presence of indicators should lead to further inquiry and investigation of the individual’s situation and experiences. Equally, the absence of indicators does not mean that the individual is not a trafficking victim. 

The indicators below are signs that a child or adolescent may be experiencing or has experienced exploitation.

 

The presence of indicators should lead practitioners to undertake a careful examination of the situation to determine if the child or adolescent may be a presumed child trafficking victim.

Behavioral Indicators

Behavioral indicators are behaviors that a child trafficking victim may exhibit while still in a trafficking situation or after exiting exploitation.

These indicators will differ in relevance and usefulness depending on the professional role of the practitioner and the situation in which they are interacting with a child or adolescent.

Behavioral Indicators

Signs of depression or distress (such as anxiety, apathy, crying, disorientation, fear, self-harm)

Behavioral Indicators

Behavior that does not correspond with behavior typical of children their age

Behavioral Indicators

Signs of intimidation and fear

Behavioral Indicators

Self-destructive behaviors (such as alcohol or drug use, risk taking)

Behavioral Indicators

Falling out with family members, running away from home, expelled from the family environment

Behavioral Indicators

Developmentally inappropriate sexualized behavior

Behavioral Indicators

Memory loss or confusion (such as not remembering where they come from or who their parents are)

Behavioral Indicators

Difficulty in adhering to limits, including schedule and responsibilities

Behavioral Indicators

Difficulty communicating or withholding of information

Behavioral Indicators

Drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, falling behind in school or activities, low motivation

Behavioral Indicators

Stories that are inconsistent with their reality or that appear to have been coached

Behavioral Indicators

Negative emotions and self-criticism (such as anger for bad decisions, lack of confidence in their own judgment)

Behavioral Indicators

Suspicious, lacking trust in those around them

Physical Indicators

Physical indicators reflect experiences (such as exploitation) that have had a physical impact on a child or adolescent’s body and physical development. A child trafficking victim may exhibit these indicators or these may have been recorded in medical records.

These indicators will differ in relevance and usefulness depending on the professional role of the practitioner and the situation in which they are interacting with a child or adolescent.

Physical Indicators

Bruises, scars, broken bones or other signs of untreated medical problems, physical restraint, confinement or torture

Physical Indicators

Signs of having been deprived of food, water, sleep and/or medical care

Physical Indicators

Chronic injuries or illness that are consistent with abuse, exploitation

Physical Indicators

Sexually transmitted infections

Physical Indicators

Evidence of rape and/or sexual abuse

Physical Indicators

Induced or spontaneous abortions

Physical Indicators

Pregnancies and/or children

Physical Indicators

Evidence of alcohol or drug use

Situational Indicators

Situational indicators reflect experiences that a child or adolescent has had in their main areas of socialization (family, school, community, institutions) that may be signs of being in a trafficking situation.

These indicators will differ in relevance and usefulness depending on the professional role of practitioner and the situation in which they are interacting with a child or adolescent.

Situational Indicators

Are without a parent or guardian

Situational Indicators

Handle amounts of money, clothing, or objects inconsistent with the family economy

Situational Indicators

Are foreign nationals, without documents and with no fixed address in the country

Situational Indicators

Are Costa Rican nationality spending time with a foreign tourist

Situational Indicators

Lack identity documents

Situational Indicators

Lack freedom of movement, are unable to leave living or working situation

Situational Indicators

Lack contact with anyone outside of their situation

Situational Indicators

Live at a place of employment

Situational Indicators

Stay in places linked to illicit activities

Situational Indicators

Stay in poor conditions (unhygienic, sub-standard, etc.)

Situational Indicators

Wander or stay regularly in the street and public places

Situational Indicators

Are foreign and living in Costa Rica without family or a guardian

Situational Indicators

Irregularly attend school

Situational Indicators

Are in bars or nightclubs accompanied by adults (generally men)

Situational Indicators

Are in custody or permanently accompanied by an adult

Situational Indicators

Have received an offer for a job or to study but do not know where they are going or the people who have hired them/made the offer

Situational Indicators

Have been provided with the means to travel or travel documents by someone unknown

Situational Indicators

Are paying off a debt

Situational Indicators

Are being threatened (in person, by phone or text message, by email, on Facebook, etc.)

Community-Based Indicators

In some cases, indications of trafficking situations may be observed in the community and are not directly connected to a presumed trafficking victim with whom a practitioner interacts.

Community-Based Indicators

Residences with unusual movements of people

Community-Based Indicators

Homes where a child or adolescent never leaves

Community-Based Indicators

Excessive security on the premises

Community-Based Indicators

Persons from outside the community associated with commercial sex activities or sexual exploitation

Community-Based Indicators

Concentration of women or girls of similar ages in the same place

Community-Based Indicators

Groups of people organized or transferred by third parties

The presence of indicators should lead practitioners to undertake a careful examination of the situation to determine if the child or adolescent may be a presumed child trafficking victim.

These indicators are not intended to be used in interviewing a child or adolescent, but rather signal the need to contact PANI if they are observed during interactions with a child or adolescent.

In all cases where a child or adolescent is experiencing or at risk of any form of harm, PANI should be notified and the child or adolescent should receive information about the protection and assistance available to them.

Not all indicators listed on this webpage will occur in every situation of child trafficking and the presence of any of these indicators is not necessarily proof of child trafficking.

Indicators are meant as a basis for further inquiry and do not, on their own, constitute conclusive determinations of victim status.

Indicators are meant as a basis for further inquiry and do not, on their own, constitute conclusive determinations of victim status.

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.