Traveling brings with it the opportunity to observe and engage with other people. This puts you in a position to notice certain behaviors in others that may be signs of abuse.
When people hear the word abuse, they tend to think of spousal abuse or child abuse, but the truth is that victims of abuse can be any age.
The majority of abuse cases involve a family member and often happens when the other family members are not paying close attention. Human trafficking is another form of abuse that is gaining public awareness.
While trafficking doesn’t always involve travel, it often does. So, it’s good to know the signs of abuse or trafficking whether it’s a woman, child, man, or elderly person.
Here are a few warning signs of abuse that you may notice along with what you can do about it.
Signs Of Abuse – What To Do If You Notice Them While You’re Traveling
Abuse can be physical, mental, or psychological. Each type of abuse can manifest its own symptoms just as people react to situations differently.
There are some common signs and behaviors, though, that are prevalent across the multiple forms of abuse and types of victims.
Physical signs to look out for include multiple areas of bruising or injuries in various states of healing or that resemble an object. This could also include marks that appear to be cigarette burns.
Behavioral signs that could indicate some form of abuse include refusal to talk or interact with anyone or appearing to be extra nervous around a specific person.
Self-comforting actions such as rocking or behavior that is inconsistent with the person’s age such as biting or sucking are also possible indicators of abuse.
These types of behavior may be relatively common in young children, or older adults with dementia. However, according to one study, one out of every thirteen elders faces abuse.
In many cases, just as with children, elder abuse involves a caretaker. Of course, if you do not know the older person you are observing, you probably don’t know if they have dementia.
It’s also possible that a younger person suffering from trauma or disorders such as autism may exhibit introverted, self-comforting, or nervous behavior. That doesn’t mean you should completely ignore warning signs of abuse or neglect if you see them.
Signs of Trafficking
Trafficking implies that a person is being forced to work in unhealthy conditions and often involves traveling. While signs of abuse and neglect can also be signs of trafficking, there are a few others.
In particular, if you see someone who looks unusually frightened, especially of security guards, crying inexplicably, or nervously looking around as if they are looking for an escape, they may be traveling against their will.
Physical signs of trafficking may include traveling without personal items or they appear to be watched or followed. Odd tattoos like barcodes or “property of” may indicate trafficking.
Children who are dressed provocatively may be a sign of trafficking, as well as anyone who seems to be malnourished or under the influence of drugs.
Behavioral signs may include speaking in a way that sounds scripted or providing inconsistent details. It could even be that they aren’t able to give details about where they are traveling from or to.
Although trafficked people travel through all different modes of transportation, airports are particular hotspots. Airports also offer the opportunity for other travelers to notice them though since there is so much waiting involved.
What You Can Do
If you notice any of the signs of abuse, neglect, or trafficking, you should report it. This may come in the form of telling a flight attendant, security guard, calling a hotline, or even using an app.
It may be uncomfortable to make a report, but it is better to err on the side of caution. If nothing is wrong, you’ve simply inconvenienced someone for a short period of time.
However, if there is some form of abuse going on, your report may be the one that leads to that victim’s rescue. Also, if the victim is a missing person, authorities will be looking for them. Sharing your concern will help.
You should be cautious though. For one thing, you may be tempted to verify possible maltreatment before making a report. It’s advised that you avoid directly questioning the possible victim or abuser about it.
They may not be able to tell you if someone is mistreating them, and the abuser may become more vigilant and more abusive.
One last thing you can do is report any claims. If someone tells you they are being abused or traveling against their will, believe them.
Making a Report
As mentioned, you can make a report to employees of the transportation industry or authorities such as police officers or security guards.
Organizations you can contact for suspected trafficking include Homeland Security in the U.S. or Crime Stoppers International. In the U.S. you can also call or text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 / text 233733.
There are many other organizations that specialize in specific types of abuse or neglect, as well as suspected runaways.
Reporting apps for trafficking include the STOP APP and Redlight Traffic. You can also make reports of suspected abuse using GoCanvas or contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline by texting LOVEIS to 22522.
Pay attention to fellow travelers and possible signs of abuse. It is the number one way to fight against it.