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The media often portrays human trafficking as something that only happens in places far away from Canada. But believe it or not, it happens here too – right under our noses.

In her memoir, Out of the Shadows, Timea Nagy shares her story of being lured into the sex trade in Toronto when she was only 20 years old. Originally from Budapest, Hungary, Timea responded to an online ad from a seemingly legitimate recruitment agency. The ad called for young women to work as babysitters and housekeepers in Canada. That was the beginning of her journey as an immigrant sex slave.

For years, Timea was raped, threatened and brainwashed by traffickers who forced her to work at some of Toronto’s biggest nightclubs. Today, she’s considered the “face” of human trafficking in Canada. Timea is working to help other survivors get their lives back. She works with Canadian police to help other trafficked girls and has her own organization as well.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, about 80 per cent of human trafficking victims are sexually exploited. Sex trafficking is a highly-organized crime that can keep a victim enslaved for many years.

Here are some tell-tale signs that a person is being trafficked:

They appear out of place in public

A flight attendant wrote a piece for Mashable on witnessing human trafficking on one of her flights. She said one of the first things she noticed was that a group of young women were inappropriately dressed for the weather. It was during the middle of the winter and they wore nothing but jeans and a t-shirt. Another odd thing about the girls was that they didn’t utter a single word to each other the entire flight.

They lack control

Another red flag to look out for is if someone doesn’t have control over their own money, bank account or identification documents. Human trafficking victims also only have a few or no personal possessions. One of the biggest signs is when someone is not allowed to speak for themselves, which means a third party will constantly insist on answering for the victims.

They have poor physical health

Someone who is being trafficked might show visible signs of physical abuse like cuts, burns and bruises. They may also display signs of poor hygiene, malnourishment, substance abuse or excessive fatigue.

They can’t communicate properly

It is common for human trafficking victims to constantly appear paranoid or scared. On a flight, they may not be able to provide details about their departure or destination simply because their traffickers refuse to tell them. Victims may also share inconsistent or scripted stories. Lastly, they lack knowledge about the city they’re in and might not be able to answer easy questions like “Where are you staying currently?”

If you suspect that someone is experiencing human trafficking, make sure you don’t approach the victim or trafficker. Instead inform the authorities. To educate yourself and help victims, here’s a list of organizations that help combat human trafficking:

 

Watch the video above for The Social’s interview with Timea.