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Traffickers and their tactics

Traffickers are experts at driving a wedge between whatever support systems or whatever structure people have in their lives, to push them away, and to get them to come to them.1

Much like sex trafficking victims, there is no one type of trafficker. They can be individuals, peers, family or gang members. They may pose as a boyfriend and use romance to prey upon a young person’s vulnerability. They may use violence or physical threats. They may offer business transactions or offers to make fast and easy money.

Victims are often recruited by someone they know. A recent study showed that 25 per cent of victims were recruited through friends, often victims themselves.At Covenant House, we have been seeing more and more survivors recruited by peers.

One-third of victims were recruited by someone they consider to be a boyfriend.3 This is the most common scenario. From the start, traffickers make it appear like a normal relationship to gain the trust of their victims. Words like "charming," "kind-hearted," and "smart" were used by survivors in our research study to describe their traffickers when they first met.

Offering the "dream," traffickers use various tactics to lure victims online or from local malls or schools. They shower young people with love and attention and promises of money, security and a luxurious lifestyle.

Survivors have told us that traffickers often also provide emotional or practical support. Traffickers may make them feel accepted for who they are, listen to them and promise to look after them.

Although tactics vary, traffickers follow a familiar pattern of psychological manipulation and control that includes luring, seducing, grooming and punishing victims. Read about this cycle of exploitation.

  1. Covenant House Toronto, & Ipsos Public Affairs. (2018). A National Sex Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Study
  2. Canadian Women’s Foundation. (2014). “No More”: Ending Sex Trafficking in Canada, Report of the National Task Force on Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada. Retrieved from https://www.canadianwomen.org/our-work/sector-resources/
  3. Ibid