Human trafficking thrives within the borders of the United States, though it often goes unnoticed. It can include organized criminal syndicates forming prostitution rings, forcing labor on victims in various industries, or it can be a form of serious abuse within relationships.

Every once in a while we see victims come forward and tell their stories. Each story is unique with different motivators and circumstances that led them into being trafficked — if you were to think of the typical life events that brought someone into, say, the illicit sex industry, what type of things do you imagine? Substance abuse, little to no family support, financial struggles — these issues are common when discussing victims, but it can also be surprising at how incredibly ordinary some of the them are. Some are regular mothers, teenagers or children from relatively normal families.

And how do very regular people get caught up in the world of human trafficking? They are coerced by the traffickers, often in a number of different ways. If a woman has moved with her son to a new town for a fresh start, she may have no support system. If the trafficker threatens her son, she may feel like going to the police is not an option. The threat of physical force is just one of many tactics employed by traffickers to manipulate their victims.

These coercion tactics tend to work well with victims who are already vulnerable in some way, and that’s where the images of financial crisis and substances abuse comes from. This is exactly why the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that 88% of cases involving trafficked children were in social services — they find people at their most vulnerable, and they exploit them.

Some of the primary methods of coercion were laid out at the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators (IAHTI) conference in Clearwater, FL recently.

Force: They threaten your family or loved ones in order to keep you around. They forcefully restrain and hold you in a certain area. They are requiring you, physically, to stay in a place and work against your will.

Fraud: This is where the traffickers lie and convince victims to willfully walk into their trafficking scheme; upon arrival, it is too late and the victims are already caught up in the trafficker’s system. This has been seen in cases where shady online personalities convince a young woman to move elsewhere, where they can work as a “model” or a “dancer.” Or, for example, the case where they convinced teenagers in Guatemala that if they moved to America to work on an egg farm, they could receive an English education as well as a paying job — both of which would have been game changers for the poor villages they came from. That is, if they were true. Instead they were forced to live in extreme poverty upon arrival to the U.S., while working off an unlivable wage and attempting to pay off an unpayable debt.

Serious Harm: The threat of serious violence has been used to coerce people since before the dawn of civilization, and that has not changed. A simple threat to someone’s life may be enough to get them to do whatever they want, especially when used in conjunction with some of these other methods. An example commonly referenced would be a pimp’s threat of violence or serious harm to the prostitutes that work for him or her.