By Eleanor Beeslaar and Maria Harkins, Family Service of the Piedmont

Now that we have a better understanding of what the warning signs and red flags of human trafficking are, we’ll explore what to do if you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, what you can do to keep your family and community safe, and what recources are currently available for victims. 

We are able to play a role in helping current victims of human trafficking, while also preventing future victims. If you suspect that someone may be a victim of human trafficking, it is important to ensure your own safety first. Do not approach the victim, as this can put both you and them in danger. Instead call 911 or your local law enforcement and try your best to gather information that can help law enforcement. If you notice that they are near a vehicle, try to write down the license plate, make, model, and color of the car. You can also take note of the victim and trafficker’s descriptions and any names or other information you may overhear. This information can be of great value to law enforcement when trying to intervene and help the victim.You can also report suspected human trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) using a variety of different methods:

We can also help prevent human trafficking by educating family members, children, and community members about what it looks like, how it occurs, who is at a higher risk for being trafficked, and what warning signs to look out for. This includes talking about online safety and the precautions available to keep traffickers from identifying victims through the internet and social media. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends setting your profile to private so that only your friends and family can access your account and contact you. It is also important to be aware of the information you are sharing online and avoid sharing personal information such as your address, contact information (email/phone number), school, or any password/user information. You should also avoid meeting up with someone who you met online in person. Parents can help keep their children safe my monitoring their online activity and setting safety rules about using the internet and social media (3).

The National Human Trafficking Hotline also has valuable information to help you stay safe and identify potential human trafficking situations. Their Safety Planning website page includes information about potential red flags for human trafficking situations, general safety tips, online safety, safety apps, and safety tips for a variety of situations (suspicious employment, domestic/international travel, suspicious/controlling relationships, etc.). 

Another important part of preventing human trafficking, is being aware of the resources and protections available to help victims. Below is a list of some of the resources and protections currently available:

  • The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) enables the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide federal benefits to foreign victims of human trafficking (2).
  • T nonimmigrant status, or T Visas, allow victims of human trafficking to remain in the U.S. for up to 4 years if they have helped law enforcement in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking (1).
  • The National Human Trafficking Hotline can provide 24/7 assistance to victims and can also connect them to national and local organizations who can provide additional help and resources.
  • There are also many community resources available to help victims of human trafficking including shelters, food panteries, soup kitchens, faith-based organizations, medical clinics, legal aid clinics, etc. 

We hope the information we’ve provided throughout the past few days has helped you gain a better understanding of what human trafficking is and what steps you can take to help prevent it!



  1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2018). Victims of Human Trafficking: T Nonimmigrant Status. Retrieved from 
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). Services Available to Victims of Human Trafficking. Retrieved from

  3. U.S. Department of 

    Homeland Security. (n.d.). Online Safety. Retrieved from 

Maria Harkins has over a decade of experience working directly with victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. As a seasoned advocate she is passionate about human rights. A native to Puerto Rico and fluent in both Spanish and English, Maria worked directly with the Latino and immigrant population. With an extensive background in human services she is now the Human Trafficking Outreach Specialist for Family Service of the Piedmont. She holds an Associate Degree in Business from Boston University, and a Computer Engineering Certification from Control Data Institute in NYC. Prior to taking on the role of an advocate Maria worked for Digital Equipment Corporation in Massachusetts where she was one of the first women to work as a Computer Engineer. 

Maria is a mother of two wonderful adult children. She loves music, art, dancing and travelling. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her partner of six years, Wayne Epperly a local artist, visiting galleries and enjoying art. Her favorite quote is “In the winds of change we find our true direction”.

To learn more about Maria, visit our earlier post, Human Trafficking 101: Not in My Neighborhood, where you can find her full bio.

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