Staying Vigilant

Human trafficking isn’t just what movies and TV shows represent 


Prevention specialist, Family Services Sexual Assault Center

This time of year is often a time for peace, reflection and spending time with loved ones. While the holiday season allows us this time to gather and celebrate, we must also be mindful about the many people around the world and in our very own communities who do not have these things: crime victims, and especially victims of interpersonal crimes, such as domestic violence and sexual assault, who often do not feel safe in their own homes.

We understand that crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault can be challenging to talk about, human trafficking even more so. Human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking, can incorporate both domestic violence and sexual assault, making it a complex crime. Traffickers get to know the person that they traffic through dating relationships, manipulation and coercive behaviors.

The definition of “sex trafficking,” according to federal statutes – 22 U.S.C. § 7102(11)(A) – is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”

Human trafficking often does not look the way it’s represented in movies and TV shows. That’s why it’s important for us all to learn about real-life red flags and understand how people can be groomed and tricked into trafficking. 

Locally, we are seeing an increase in people being exploited using online platforms such as social media and video conferencing technology. Human trafficking does not require any movement or transporting of a victim to a new area – it can be done in someone’s own home over a computer or electronic device. The rise in new technology such as AI also has professionals concerned. AI has been used to created inappropriate images and circulate them online.

When giving gifts of technology this year, have safe internet conversations with kids and let them know about the possible dangers of posting photos, sharing location and chatting online. If you don’t feel comfortable or don’t know where to begin with these topics, the Sexual Assault Center can help provide prevention programming or give tips on starting the conversation (and continuing it).

This January, please help us spread the word about National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. For information on red flags, check out or follow the Sexual Assault Center on Facebook or Instagram for posts throughout the month.

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.