The Grooming Process and Warning Signs

The Grooming Process

“The perpetrators of trafficking employ a “grooming process” to draw victims away from their homes or to gain the trust and dependency of young victims who may have run away from home. The first step is often the development of a relationship with an older man, who the victim comes to regard as her “boyfriend”. The perpetrator assesses the victim’s needs (vulnerabilities) and offers flattery, material items such as money, jewelry or clothes, and/or displays other “acts of love”. The adolescent female may be enticed to begin a sexual relationship with her “boyfriend”. The adolescent will be encouraged to stay away from home for increasingly longer periods of time, eventually leading to her not returning home at all.”


What Are The Possible Warning Signs? Homeland Security Information

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.


Other screening questions from the Department of Health and Human Services:

  1. Where do you sleep and eat?

Do you sleep in a bed, on a cot, or on the floor?

Have you ever been deprived of food, water, sleep, or medical care?

Are you required to ask permission for physical necessities?

  1. What are your working and living conditions like?

Are you able to come and go as you please?

Can you leave your job or working situation if you want to?

Are there locks on your doors and windows so you cannot leave?

Are you allowed to talk to people outside your home or job?

  1. Has anyone ever physically harmed you in any way?

Have you ever been threatened if you try to leave your home or work?

Has anyone ever threatened your family?

  1. Has your identification or documentation been taken away from you?

Is anyone forcing you to do anything that you do not want to do?

Have you been or are you forced to have sex or perform sex acts?