Relationship red flags

(NC) Humans are social creatures, and often seek to be in committed relationships. In a respectful, trusting relationship, each partner is supportive of the other. People being tricked or taken advantage of by their romantic partners may not be something we look out for. But situations like this can happen, and people are lured into exploitative relationships often without realizing it.

In some cases, control and manipulation can lead to human trafficking. Women and girls are particularly at risk – 96 per cent of trafficking victims are female. Traffickers tend to target young people who are at odds or separated from their families. Migrants and new immigrants, Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQI+ persons are more likely to be victims of human trafficking.

More than 90 per cent of trafficking victims knew the person who trafficked them beforehand, with a third of victims in Canada trafficked by an intimate partner.

Here’s what a human trafficking situation could look like for you or someone you know:

During the first stages of a typical trafficking situation - which can take place entirely online - a trafficker may shower you with praise and expensive gifts to earn trust. After a honeymoon phase, the relationship often takes a rapid and negative turn. Traffickers may even make demands for repayment of those earlier “gifts.”

Intimidation, controlling behaviours and threats of violence are common in trafficking relationships. If a would-be partner tries to restrict your movements or stops you from seeing friends and family on your own, that’s a serious warning sign. They may also take away your phone or prevent you from using the internet or social media.

Traffickers may pressure you into taking intimate photos and sharing them with others as a way to control you. Traffickers can use photos to blackmail their victims into doing things they don’t want to, or threaten to share images with family or co-workers if their victim doesn’t comply.

If you think you or someone you know is being trafficked, you can call the confidential Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010. For immediate help, call 911.

Find more information on the warning signs of human trafficking and what to do at

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