To this day, I continue to think about what I should have done that day in that restaurant. Yet, I just sat there staring at this young woman, frozen with disbelief and hesitation.
She had dark lifeless eyes and, in the middle of winter, was wearing cut-off shorts and a low-cut tank top with a light jacket. Her gaze was fixed on the floor as she was toying with her necklace, breathing heavy, quick sighs.
After a few minutes, a man sat next to her and she could barely make eye contact with him. His eyes darted around the restaurant while he quickly tapped his foot on the ground. He bought her a meal and watched her while she ate it. Occasionally she murmured a word to him while gazing down. At one point, he reached his hand out and touched her wrist, her eyes quickly met his and then, just as quickly, looked away.
When she was done with her meal she stood up and walked out, while the man followed her closely, still looking around.
It didn’t occur to me then, but now I know that I might have seen someone being trafficked.
The Warning Signs of Trafficking
According to Polaris, a non-profit dedicated to fighting human trafficking, some of the visual signs of human trafficking are being in the commercial sex industry, appearing nervous and avoiding eye contact. Other signs may include being dressed inappropriately for the weather and appearing malnourished.
Human trafficking happens in all of our neighborhoods. All. The. Time. And it takes all of us to be aware and to help stop it.
What You Can Do To Help Stop Trafficking
Perhaps the greatest lesson learned is that trusting your intuition is better than regretting. I didn’t do anything, and now will always wonder what if I had.
If you see something suspicious, call your local authorities. Any information you provide them may help them fight human trafficking. If you or someone you know has been trafficked or is being sexually exploited, text “BeFree” (233733).
Marcella Gonsalves is wife, mom, program planner, writer, teacher, coach and people developer. When she is not helping people or organizations achieve their goals, she loves to drink a good espresso, talk about nutrition, or even take a kickboxing class or two. She has a diverse educational background with a bachelor of arts in journalism, master of public health and is nearly finished with a doctorate in educational leadership and management. Check out her LinkedIn profile for more details.