I am being trafficked. What will I be feeling during this time?

If you are experiencing human trafficking, it is important to know it is NOT your FAULT. Being the Victim of Human Trafficking is often a very traumatic experience but there is hope and help available for you and your family.

Many victims don't realize that they are being trafficked. Human trafficking is a complex issue that impacts both physically and psychologically. It is common for those who have been trafficked to have a hard time identifying as being exploited due to the manipulation used by the trafficker.

If you are affected by Human Trafficking, you may feel:

  • Angry
  • Guilty
  • Shame
  • Self blame
  • Afraid, cautious or confused
  • Worthless or alone
  • Sad or depressed
  • Anxious
  • Like you don't have control
  • Like you can't trust anyone
  • Conflicted feelings to your trafficker

These are all common reactions to exploitation and abuse, but if you are feeling something else, that is OK too.

We know that the psychological impacts of exploitation, such as anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, combined with feelings of self-blame and guilt, can have long lasting effects on individuals.

It is not uncommon for individuals to also experience the following:

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Drug and Alcohol abuse
  • Thoughts of Suicide
  • Self Harming Behaviours
  • Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIS)
  • Homelessness
  • Mental Health Impact Factors

Remember, being the Victim of Human Trafficking is NOT your fault.

What you are experiencing is a crime against you and you are not to blame for the trafficker's actions.

What is a trauma bond?

Trauma bonding is a psychological response to abuse. It occurs when the abused person forms an unhealthy bond with the person who abuses them.

We know that it is not uncommon for individuals to be lured and groomed with the promise of a relationship. When this happens the bond between the victim and trafficker develops into an intense attachment that is often referred to as trauma bonding. For some this could be the first relationship that they have experienced love and affection. Once a relationship has been established, the cycle of abuse begins alternating between love and affection with anger and violence.

The victim will strive to do whatever it takes to bring the relationship back to the honeymoon phase they experienced in the beginning. After the trafficker becomes angry, they apologize and become affectionate and apologize for what may have happened. In those moments an individual may feel hopeful that things are back to how they were in the beginning however this is sadly not the case.

This vicious cycle keeps an individual in a state of constant uncertainty and hypervigilance. The victim finds solace in the relationship because, while it is abusive, it is also predictable and consistent, and leaving can be difficult and overwhelming.

Signs of Trauma Bonding

The trafficked person may:

  • Show gratitude for small kindnesses shown by the trafficker.
  • Feel loyal to or defend the trafficker.
  • Rationalize violence by the trafficker — believe they can control the level of abuse by being complacent and pleasing the trafficker.
  • Have protective feelings towards the trafficker.
  • Feel that the trafficker genuinely loves them and cares about them.
  • Feel that only the trafficker can help or care for them.

Why do I feel that I can’t leave?

Understanding the way this bond works can help explain why people stay in violent or abusive relationships. The common but harmful question, "Why don’t you just leave?" doesn’t account for the complexity of a trauma bond and the mental reprogramming it requires to break one.

Here are a number of reasons researchers have identified as to why it is so difficult to break a trauma bond:

  • Victims may not feel like they are being victimized. In some cases, they feel that being sexually exploited is "normal" because of an adverse childhood experience.
  • The trafficker or "pimp" is sometimes viewed as a romantic partner.
  • In many cases, the trafficker has essentially brainwashed the victim to the point that they believe they truly care about them and are there to keep them safe, while law enforcement and authority figures cannot be trusted.
  • They may be afraid to leave. Even if they were assured that the trafficker will go to jail, they may still feel like they still won’t be able to escape them.
  • They may feel like that their situation being trafficked for sex is better than if they were to be free. There might not be enough family or community support to make it on their own.
  • There may be cultural norms that ingrain a policy of "don’t talk about it." They may be too ashamed to leave and accept help, when it is normal in their culture to keep abuse a secret.
  • Many Survivors, due to low self esteem from childhood abuse or by being exploited in the sex trade believe that they DESERVE to be abused. These victims of trauma feel that they are unworthy of safety, love and healthy human connection.
  • Many Survivors feel so changed by their experience of being trafficked that they do not believe that they will ever be able to fit into the ‘real’ world ever again. Due to this belief they feel there is no point in trying to escape from their trafficker.

Signs of Trauma Bonding

The trafficked person may:

  • Show gratitude for small kindnesses shown by the trafficker.
  • The victim will consistently strive to get the relationship back to how it was in the beginning (the honeymoon phase).
  • Feel loyal to or defend the trafficker.
  • Rationalize violence by the trafficker — believe they can control the level of abuse by being complacent and pleasing the trafficker.
  • Have protective feelings towards the trafficker.
  • Feel that the trafficker genuinely loves them and cares about them.
  • Feel that only the trafficker can help or care for them.
  • This could be the first time the victim has been shown any love, affection or protection in life. The victim will come to view the trafficker as someone who is protective and not exploitive.
I am a parent. What can I do to keep my child safe from traffickers?
  • Know what your kids are doing online. Know the usernames and passwords to all of their social media accounts.
  • Educate yourself on what social media accounts your child is using (ie Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc).
  • Ensure that your child’s social media is privatized and that you are aware of who they are adding as "friends".
  • Know the phone number(s) your child has and their email addresses.
  • Know who your kids are with and where they are hanging out.
  • Foster close, loving relationships with your child.
  • Encourage conversations with your child centered around having healthy relationships and setting boundaries.
  • Help your child build a strong self-esteem from an early age.
  • Maintain open communication with your child. Remind them that they can come to you or another trusted adult if they are feeling threatened or need emotional support.
  • Create an atmosphere that no matter what is happening your child they can come to you, or come home. Always remind them that their home is a safe place.
  • Be aware of the above mentioned signs and indicators of trafficking/grooming and don't be afraid to ask your child questions if you notice these behaviours.
  • Make notes of phone calls, license plate numbers, and remember the names of who your child is associating with
  • We don't want to teach our children to be afraid. Instead, we should teach them to be mindful that potentially dangerous and unsafe circumstances can occur anywhere, at any time, and to anyone

For more information on how to recognize, respond and react to signs of sexual exploitation please visit:


"Children of the Street’s mission is to take a proactive approach through public awareness, education and early intervention strategies to prevent the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of children and youth, while offering support to families".

Parent Toolkit


Published in 2015, this toolkit is designed to educate parents on the issue of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, enabling them to recognize warning signs, safeguard their children against exploitation, and equip them with strategies and tools for managing this issue should it happen to their child.

Download the Safer Space Resource Package


This package provide a short guide for parents, caregivers and adults who work with children and youth, to help them navigate apps and recognize the warning signs of online exploitation, and offers resources for support with online exploitation.

Download link:

Online Exploitation Guide (PDF)

Get Cyber Safe

Get Cyber Safe is a national public awareness campaign created to inform Canadians about cyber security and the simple steps they can take to protect themselves online.

Website: https://www.getcybersafe.gc.ca/en/home

My child is being trafficked. Are their supports available for me as the parent?

Lifeworthy - A SIM Project

10 Huntingdale Boulevard,
Scarborough, ON
Phone: 1-800-294-6918
Website: lifeworthy.ca

Lifeworthy provides and promotes supportive community and spiritual care for sex trafficked victims and their families. Led by John Cassells, Ashley Constable and their team of volunteers, this project provides three main areas of ministry:

  • Mentoring and life coaching for young women who have been exploited in the sex industry.
  • 'Parents Hope' ministry to provide care for family members of sex trafficking victims.
  • Consulting and training churches and para-church organizations for human trafficking related ministries.
  • If you have a loved one who is being trafficked or otherwise involved in sex industry activities, Parents Hope is here to support you.
  • We offer online peer-led support group meetings as well as individual support.
  • There is no fee for services. Parents Hope is a program of Lifeworthy - SIM Canada
  • For more information, email Lynda at [email protected] or visit lifeworthy.ca
How do traffickers exploit individuals online?

Online child sexual exploitation is when children are tricked into seeing or participating in online encounters of a sexual nature.

The internet is the most popular and simplest way for young people to be lured and groomed for sexual purposes. When someone with a sexual interest in a child trains them for potential sexual interaction, they are lured online.

Usually it is an adult luring a child online, but it can be someone around the same age as the child or youth.

Traffickers who groom a child or adolescent online may:

  • Befriend a child or adolescent over the course of days, months, or even years. It removes the concept of "stranger danger" by posing as a peer, acquaintance, partner, or a friend.
  • Use offensive sexual words, exposing children to pornographic videos, or performing sexual acts on themselves in front of the child, traffickers may encourage a child or youth to explore their sexuality.
  • The trafficker will use sextortion tactics, where the trafficker will convince a child to engage in sexual activity and take photos or videos of themselves. The trafficker then uses the images to threaten that child.
  • The trafficker may also threaten to injure themselves or the child's family if the child abandons them by harming the child emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

Some signs of online grooming are:

  • Secrecy about who they are talking to
  • Unusual distractedness or preoccupation
  • Withdrawing and appearing quieter or sadder or conversely more volatile
  • Abrupt mood swings
  • Inability to turn off phone resulting in worry or stress
  • Switching screens when you come near them when they are on their computer or phone
  • Using sexual language you wouldn’t expect them to know or that is not age-appropriate

You MUST begin as soon as your child is able to use the internet or is given technology (cellular phone iPad, gaming device, etc ) to teach your child about being safe online.

  • Parents should become familiar with the social media platforms and applications that their children use, as well as online language.
  • Discuss online protection, anonymity, setting limits, preserving healthy relationships, and consent.
  • Discuss with them the value of not succumbing to pressure and ending contact if they feel threatened.
  • Tell them it's ok to come to you or another adult at any time, even if they believe they've made a mistake.
  • Remind your child that it is a privilege and not a right for them to have access to the internet in your home. If they abuse this privilege or don’t follow the rules that you have set our regarding its usage they can lose it.
  • Set and enforce rules such as prohibiting all cellular devices from the bedroom. This will help ensure that they are not having secretive conversations on their devices late at night.
  • Discuss with your children dangerous people, safety rules, body safety, dangerous situations, and create a family "safe word".

For more information on how to keep your children safe online visit:

For information, resources and tools to help you remove sexual pictures and videos from the Internet please visit:

  • https://www.needhelpnow.ca/
  • NeedHelpNow.ca, an initiative of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, is intended to provide information to youth who have been negatively impacted by a sexual picture/video being shared by peers. The goal of the site is to offer guidance on the steps you to take to get through the situation and #ChangeTheStory. If you or someone you know have been negatively impacted by a self/peer exploitation incident, we are here to help.
I am a partner, parent or a friend of someone who is being trafficked into the sex trade. What can I do?

If you believe, your child or loved one is being trafficked into the sex trade you can contact the police and file a report. Advise the attending officer(s) of the information you have relating to your child. All information relating to your child could potentially be important to the police. Provide the attending officer(s) with phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts and the known associates of your child. The officers will then forward a report to the Human Trafficking Team for further investigation.

The support of family and friends plays an important role in the healing process, whether the Survivor was trafficked recently or years ago. Survivors may feel embarrassed, ashamed and frightened. They may or may not be ready to speak about what happened. Be ready to listen and support them when they are ready to talk.

If you have any suspicions that something isn't quite right or that your child is being sexually exploited, trust your instincts. Take the time to strengthen and expand your relationship with your child by developing and opening lines of communication.

It is important to let them know that you care about them and that they are not to blame for what has happened. No one wants or deserves to trafficked in the sex trade.

For an individual, leaving Human Trafficking may be extremely difficult. Threats from a pimp, being controlled by them, drug and alcohol abuse, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, low self-esteem, and alienation from family can all be obstacles for young people to leave.

They may feel a sense of guilt over what has happened but remember to remind them that it is not their fault. You can be of great help throughout their healing process by giving them this message.

What is a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK)?
  • The kit is a package of envelops, bottles and other containers used to collect and preserve evidence.
  • Evidence can be collected from many different parts of the body and at different points in time, the best time to have the kit completed is within 72 hours of the assault.
Where is the SAEK completed?
  • The kit is completed by a registered nurse that is specially trained to collect the evidence.
  • The kits are conducted at a Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care Centre.
  • There are 3 centers that conduct these tests in Toronto:

A Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centers provide emergency care, follow-up health care and counselling to both male and female Victim's of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The care provided is available 24 hrs a day and includes services such as; crisis intervention, documentation of injuries, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, forensic evidence collection and preservation for release to police, safety planning and referrals for ongoing support.


For more information on resources for Survivors of sexual assault, www.yourchoice.to is a one-stop shop for sexual assault survivors to find resources and support service that are accessible to them. Whether their choice is to confide in a friend, go to the hospital, seek legal advise or report to the police, the website is designed to empower survivors to make choices with respect to the process that is right for them. It is not about reporting, it’s about ensuring survivor have enough information to make informed choices on the process that is best for them.

YourChoice.to also includes a 26-page document that provides answers to questions most commonly asked by survivor of sexual assault, which has been translated into 12 different languages.

What other types of evidence are collected?

Evidence is a very important part of any criminal investigation. The evidence collected is used later at trial to assist in proving the case against the alleged assailant.

Evidence can include video statements, cell phones, social media content and other documentation. If you have been sexually assaulted, biological evidence will also be used as evidence.

I am afraid because my trafficker threatened my family and me. How will the police keep me safe?

The Human Trafficking Enforcement Team will make every effort to ensure your safety. Police will provide you with a safe place to stay and your support team will continue to work with you to provide you with shelter and housing options.

The Human Trafficking Enforcement Team will transport you to a safe location and will provide you with a safety plan. This is to ensure that your trafficker will not be able to locate you or communicate with you.

Will reporting to police affect my immigration status?

No. Your immigration status will NOT be affected by reporting to the police.

Will everyone know what happened to me?

Your privacy is important to us. When an arrest is made in relation to Human Trafficking, the accused’s information and charges are released in a Media Release. The Human Trafficking Team will advise you BEFORE the media release is made public.

Your Name, Personal Details and anything that would identify you as a victim will NEVER be released to the media. Protecting you and your identity is our number one priority.

What happens after an arrest is made?

Once a person is arrested and charged, they become the Accused.

In most cases, Accused persons are held in custody and brought to court for a Show Cause Bail Hearing. This hearing is before a Justice of the Peace or Judge, with a Crown Attorney representing the Victim, and a lawyer representing the Accused.

The Judge or Justice of the Peace will determine if the Accused is to be released on Bail, or Held in Custody and transported to a Jail.

If an Accused is released, there are usually conditions that will be placed upon them, that they must abide by while out on Bail. These types of conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • A No Contact Order – directly, or indirectly with the Victim and other named parties, should they be relevant – this means that the Accused, or anyone else at the request of the Crown, cannot contact the Victim, by any means
  • The No Contact order – typically includes that the Accused cannot attend any location that you are known to work, reside or attend.
  • If the Accused disobeys any of the conditions placed upon them at the Bail Hearing, contact police immediately as this is a direct violation of their release
  • If anyone contacts you and threatens or tries to intimidate you into not testifying notify the police immediately. No one can influence you not to provide testimony. They can be arrested for Obstructing Justice if they do.

The Accused will make numerous court appearances before the matter is set for a Trial. The Victim is not required to attend these court dates. These dates are routine and are for preparation for Trial.

The Victim will have to attend court if there is a Preliminary Hearing or Trial.

What if the offender is not caught?

Cases are never closed. Should the offender not be caught, the information stays open until further evidence comes to light, or the offender is located and arrested.

The Human Trafficking Team will make every effort to arrest and charge the person(s) who have exploited you into the sex trade.