NurseAsk Nurse Lisa

Human Trafficking

“Take Care of Others – You Cannot Live Without Them”

– Universal Alaska Native Traditional Value

Challenging Topic

This topic can be challenging for some, especially for people with relevant experiences. Remember to take care of yourself, and be aware of your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical status. Be sure to take breaks, if needed.

If you need someone to talk to, please visit the Get Care page for resources specific to your circumstances.

Last updated January 2021

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the modern-day form of slavery. It’s a major issue that leaves long-lasting negative impacts on individuals, families and communities. Human trafficking goes by many different names that you’ve probably heard before – like exploitation, trafficking and slavery.

Human trafficking is a violation of a person’s rights, and a very serious crime across the world.[8] So, how do you know when human trafficking has happened? U.S. federal law says that human trafficking occurs when someone uses force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of commercial work or sexual exploitation.[1a] Basically, human trafficking is when someone feels they have no choice but to work for someone else for little or no compensation. Often it feels as though that person is trapped in that situation, with nowhere to go for help. There are many different types of human trafficking, some of which are reviewed in the below sections.

Before we delve deeper, let’s define a few terms as they relate to this page.
Coercion: the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.
Commercial work: work that is done for profit or some sort of gain.  
Force: to make someone do something against their will.
Fraud: an act of deceit, trickery or lies told in order to gain some advantage.
Sexual exploitation: abuse of a position of vulnerability, power or trust for sexual purposes.
Trafficker: Also called ‘abuser’, this is the person who has taken someone and is trafficking them.

Labor trafficking is a type of human trafficking that happens when at least one person forces another to provide some type of service. This can happen a few different ways, which includes but is not limited to; debt bondage, forced labor and child labor. Millions and millions of people, young and old, are labor trafficked each year.

In the United States, labor trafficking is defined as “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.”[2a] This can look like someone who is forced into domestic work, such as a maid or nanny, for little to no payment and often forced to live in inhumane conditions.

Sex trafficking is another type of trafficking that happens when a trafficker sexually exploits another person for profit or gain. In other words, the trafficker forces a person to engage in commercial sex acts. A commercial sex act can include a lot of different things, like; prostitution, pornography or any sexual act done in exchange for something of value.[5]

Is sex trafficking the same as sex work? For example, you might have heard of platforms that people use to sell pictures or videos of themselves in exchange for goods – like money. Commercial sex acts take place in both sex trafficking and sex work. However, sex trafficking is NOT the same as sex work. The difference is that sex trafficking lacks consent from the laborer. The definition of consent varies from state-to-state. To learn more about what consent is, please visit our page on consent.

In the United States, sex trafficking is defined as “recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of an individual through the means of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex.”[2b] Basically, sex trafficking is when a person is forced into sex work and feels they have no way to get out of that situation safely.

The State of Alaska considers human trafficking to be a violent crime. Although everyone is at risk for human trafficking, Alaska Native and other Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by violent crimes. Because of gaps in communication between state, local and Tribal law enforcement agencies, it’s hard to know just how many Alaska Native people have been affected by trafficking. However, we can see the nationwide disparities in violent crimes against Native people when we look at existing data. For example, we can see that Native women and girls are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than other ethnicities.[3]

This is why the movement ‘No More Stolen Sisters’ was started, including ‘Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’ (MMIW) and ‘Missing and Murdered Indigenous People’ (MMIP). The Indigenous, homeless and LGBTQ2S+ communities are gaining attention as high-priority populations of interest in this field. The goal of many of these movements is to raise awareness on the disproportionately high rates these demographics experience violent crimes and to pass policies to protect targeted populations.

Human trafficking is an action done to a person, and it is never the fault of the victim/survivor.

If you think someone is being trafficked, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency immediately. Do not attempt to personally/physically confront the suspected trafficker. Recognizing human trafficking is hard to do, but we can teach ourselves and our peers to be on the lookout for these general signs of human trafficking:

  • Unstable living situation
  • Working excessively long hours
  • Shows signs of physical, spiritual, mental or emotional abuse
  • Has untreated sexually transmitted diseases/infections
  • Answers in a way that is scripted or rehearsed
  • Does not have control or possession of their personal documents, like ID
  • Not allowed to go into public alone
  • Not allowed to speak for themselves
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution[4]

All of the items above are not always present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of these may not necessarily be proof of human trafficking.

Three Ways to Protect Yourself from Trafficking

Let’s first establish that it is never the fault of the victim or survivor of human trafficking for becoming a victim or survivor of human trafficking. Trafficking is an action done to the victim by an abuser. The fault of human trafficking always lies with an abuser who takes advantage of another person’s vulnerability.

We share these suggestions with the intention to inform you and others of how to stay safe.  There is no guaranteed way to protect yourself from human trafficking, but following these practices should make you less susceptible to targeted approaches.[2c]

  • Have you ever looked down a dark street and thought to yourself, ‘hmm… I don’t think I should go that way.’ That’s your ‘gut feeling.’ There is a reason you feel this way, even if you don’t completely know why. It’s ok to feel the way that you do. If you don’t feel comfortable with something, trust yourself!  
  • If you feel like you are in danger or if something feels suspicious, let a trusted friend or family member know. If one is not available, try using a phone to call someone or ‘post’/‘go live’ on social media so that you are not fully alone in an uneasy situation.
  • A safety plan is a personalized plan to help you prepare for and respond to different scenarios. It can be hard to know what to do in the middle of a crisis, so having this laid out ahead of time can help you remember what to do or where to go. It can even help your family or friends in knowing how to support you. To get started on a safety plan, please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get started.
  • While you should hope for the best because it’s unlikely you or someone you know might not ever be trafficked, it’s still a good idea to prepare just in case.
  • Traffickers will try to isolate their victims from their social circle. They will try to ruin relationships that their victims have with other people, like with friends or family. It is easier for traffickers to prey on people if their intended victims become reliant on them for food, housing or even emotional support. 
  • If you are not able to connect with a social circle, try to stay connected to a phone. Being able to call for help or reach out via social media can go a long way in keeping you safe.

How to Get Help or Help Someone Else

If you think someone is being trafficked, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency immediately. Do NOT attempt to personally or physically confront the suspected trafficker. Here are some other ways to help:[1b]

  • Call 911
  • National Human Trafficking Hotline: text ‘HELP’ or ‘INFO’ to BeFree (233733)
  • In Alaska: visit your local emergency shelter service, or contact the Abused Womens Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) resource on their website or call their 24/7 Anonymous Crisis Line at (907) 272-0100. (They assist people of all gender identities!)

  • Call 911
  • Federal Law Enforcement Reporting: 1-866-347-2423

  • If you’re comfortable, and if it’s safe to do so, ask the victim or survivor how you can help. Oftentimes, simply being there for them is exactly what you can do.
  • In Alaska: to learn how to support someone else, visit the Abused Womens Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) website (they assist people of all gender identities!)

If you or someone you know is or has been the victim of human trafficking, you may be eligible for financial compensation.[6] To learn more or to review local resources for victims and survivors of human trafficking, please visit the State of Alaska’s Violent Crimes Compensation Board website.

[1a],[1b]Department of Homeland Security. (2020). What is human trafficking? Blue campaign. Reference:,labor%20or%20commercial%20sex%20act.&text=Traffickers%20use%20force%2C%20fraud%2C%20or,labor%20or%20commercial%20sexual%20exploitation.

[2a],[2b],[2c]Human Trafficking Hotline. (2020). Key statistics. Labor trafficking. Reference:

[3]Native Womens Wilderness. (2020). Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women. Home. Reference:

[4]Nevada Attorney General. (2020). Warning Signs of Human Trafficking. Home. Reference:

[5]Shared Hope. (2020). What is sex trafficking? The problem. Reference:

[6]State of AK. (2020). Trafficking in persons. Policy. Reference:

[7]The National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2020). Create a safety plan. Plan for safety. Reference:

[8]United Nations. (2020). Human Trafficking. Office on drugs and crime. Reference:

Get Help

For general resources about relationships, sex, wellness and more, please do a search on the Get Answers page.

Are you in immediate danger?

Call 911 or your local police. If not in an immediate threat, please view resources on the Get Care page.