Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking that involves recruiting, moving, or holding victims for sexual exploitation purposes. Sex traffickers can coerce victims into providing sexual services by force or through threats, including mental and emotional abuse, and manipulation. (Source)

Traffickers can be both male and female, but most identify as male.

Sex trafficking is not just something that happens in the movies and far-away countries — it is all around us.

Learn more about other types of human trafficking.

How does this happen?

*Trigger warning* The following stories may be triggering for some readers. Discretion is advised.

The following examples illustrate how this can happen:

Who is most at risk of being trafficked?

Many factors are at play, but traffickers most often target people who are:

  • Young
  • Female
  • Have suffered abuse and violence
  • Indigenous or from racialized communities
  • 2SLGBTQ+
  • Living with disabilities
  • Migrants or new immigrants
  • Struggling with money
  • In foster care
  • Unaware of their rights
  • Working in remote areas
  • Isolated from social supports
  • Struggling with the dominant language

Traffickers prey on individuals who may be in challenging situations. This could be someone who is not in contact with their family, struggling with their identity, a survivor of abuse, or someone in desperate need of work or money. Whatever the reason, victims are often unaware that they’re even being groomed as traffickers are often expert manipulators.

Not everything listed below is present in every human trafficking situation, but here are a few signs to watch for:

  • sudden change in behaviour – may be acting fearful or anxious
  • suddenly has expensive purses, clothes, jewelry or shoes they cannot afford
  • escorted or driven to and from locations
  • may be dressed in clothing inappropriate for the weather, situation, or their age
  • no control over their own money and/or identification
  • showing signs of abuse, malnourishment or sleep deprivation
  • having multiple cellphones or a cell phone with a tracking or screen mirroring application installed
  • tattoos or branding by a trafficker
  • travelling with limited or no luggage
  • trafficker taking control of the conversation for one or multiple persons
  • unable to indicate where they are living, including an address
  • unable to identify their last location or upcoming destination
  • new friends or boyfriend who provide gifts, expensive clothing, jewelry, or drugs
  • loss of connection to family and friends
  • skipping school and staying out late or all night
  • behaviour changes and mood swings – anxiety or depression, secrecy, and lying.
  • reluctance to engage with teachers, youth workers, social workers, and other adults in their life
  • chronically missing / reported missing repeatedly
  • reach out to any of the resources below
  • do not confront a suspected trafficker directly – contact local police, if needed
  • identifying victims and reporting tips is doing your part to help – it is up to police to investigate
  • if it is an emergency, call 911
  • Is someone controlling, threatening you, or dishonest?
  • Are they giving you expensive gifts and telling you to look sexy?
  • Do they try to prevent you from spending time with your friends or family?
  • Are they forcing you to have sex for money and keeping the money you make?

Police-reported incidents of human trafficking show that 96% of victims are women and girls, 24% are girls under the age of 18, and 45% are women aged 18 to 24. (Source)


Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline

Get confidential help 24/7 in several languages by calling the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline.

Call toll-free 1-833-900-1010 or chat online.

The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking

The Canadian Centre to End
Human Trafficking
24/7 toll-free


A free, confidential, voluntary support service for youth aged 13-18, of all genders and all orientations, who are, or are at risk of, being sexually exploited. Young people can access Onyx on their own, through a friend, family member, MCFD, other youth serving agencies, their school or the police.

Toll Free: 1-877-411-7532

Children of the Street

Children of the Street offers children, parents, caregivers, and service providers the information and practical tools they need to keep young people safe from all forms of sexual exploitation.


Family Services of Greater Vancouver

For over 25 years, Family Services has delivered victim services to women and children who have experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking. takes tips regarding the online sexual exploitation of children under 18 years old.

Crime Stoppers

Report crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers or call 1-800-222-8477.

Province of BC

24/7 toll-free

Ending Human Trafficking
604-347-9500 or
toll-free 1-855-332-4283 24/7

Vancouver Police Foundation

This awareness campaign is possible thanks to the generous support of the Vancouver Police Foundation.