Indicators of Abuse and Control

In Module 1, we reviewed the many tactics traffickers use to abuse and control the people they are exploiting to keep them compliant. These include violence and fear, debt bondage, dependency (for example, to drugs or to the trafficker), isolation (the trafficker may never let them go out alone), guilt and shame.

A trafficker may also exert control — and keep the person from running away or going for help — by taking away their vital documents, such as a passport or visa. If the person has been trafficked into Canada, the trafficker may take their return plane ticket. A domestically trafficked person may have their driver’s licence, credit card, health card or Indian status card taken by their trafficker.

My Story: They had been injecting me with drugs. I was covered in bruises and track marks form needles all over my body. In the emergency room, when I tried to tell somebody what was happening, a lot of my speech wouldn’t work and I was in deep shock and was terrified to talk because nothing I was saying was making sense.

- Leann

In RCMP’s I’m Not for Sale video below, Suzanne Cooper explains why a trafficked person does whatever the trafficker wants them to do.


Trafficking Bonds

(Video runtime 00:26)

(Transcript for the Trafficking Bonds video.)

Red Flags: 

You learn or suspect that the potentially trafficked person:     

  • Must work against their will.    
  • Cannot leave their current situation.    
  • Has been threatened with:        
    • violence, against their loved ones.        
    • arrests or deportation.        
    • even worse working conditions.        
    • no pay.    
  • Is punished when they do something wrong.    
  • Can only leave home to go to work, or that activities outside of work are highly controlled.    
  • Sleeps where they work, or has no private space.    
  • Has moved from place to place often.    
  • Is unfamiliar or unaware of their surrounding environment.    
  • Has limited or no control over their working conditions.    
  • Works excessively long hours with few breaks or days off.    
  • Has no money or access to money, or hands over their money to someone else.    
  • Is bonded by debt to another person.    
  • Does not have access to medical care.    
  • Has limited contact with friends, or relatives. 

The person shows other signs that they are being abused or controlled-for example, the person:     

  • Is fearful or anxious in general, or is afraid of the police or other authority specifically.    
  • Is always accompanied by someone else.    
  • Allows that other person to speak for them, even when directly addressed.    
  • Acts as if they are following instructions, or talks as if they are reading from a script.    
  • Cannot make an appointment on their own (without control over their own schedule).    
  • Has visible scars or injuries, such as bruises around their wrists from being tied up, or cigarette burns on the inside of their arms or legs.    
  • Is hungry or appears malnourished.    
  • Does not have any identity documents, even false ones, or a health card or other documentation.    
  • Is reluctant to tell you their name or other details about themselves, or the names of others.


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