Trafficking Terms

Automatic — A term denoting the victim’s “automatic” routine when her pimp is out of town, in jail, or otherwise not in direct contact with those he is prostituting. Victims are expected to comply with the rules and often do so out of fear of punishment or because they have been psychologically manipulated into a sense of loyalty or love. All money generated on “automatic” is turned over to the pimp. This money may be used to support his concession/phone account or to pay his bond if he’s in jail.

Bottom — A female appointed by the trafficker/pimp to supervise the others and report rule violations. Operating as his “right hand,” the Bottom may help instruct victims, collect money, book hotel rooms, post ads, or inflict punishments on other girls.

Branding — A tattoo or carving on a victim that indicates ownership by a trafficker/pimp/gang.

To see the complete list visit Shared Hope.


How it Happens

Kayti was just 11 years old when her dad sold her for sex for the first time in a US town. After years of abuse, she shares what she lived through and how she finally escaped. Watch the video below.


Checklist for a Trauma-informed Approach to Interactions With Survivors of Human Trafficking*

Be aware if the individual appears shut down or disconnected; this may be a sign that the person is overwhelmed.

  • Have materials available that may support regulation of affect and impulses during meetings, conversation, or testimony.

  • Check in to make sure the survivor is hearing and understanding your statements or questions and provide frequent breaks.

  • Be aware that changes in memory do not necessarily indicate falsehood or storytelling, but may be indicative of a trauma response.

  • Try to hold interviews or other key conversations at a time when the survivor feels most stable and safe.

  • Help break down tasks concretely; assume that even small tasks may feel overwhelming. Support the survivor in accessing help with task completion.

  • Focus on the facts of experiences, rather than getting caught up in the individual’s emotional response or perception of events in making determinations about criminality.

  • Be aware of the often confusing nature of the individual’s relationships with the perpetrators; be conscious of not making assumptions.

  • Don’t take strong reactions personally; be very aware of managing your own emotional responses.

  • Provide opportunities for control and empowerment whenever possible.

  • Be aware of the importance of physical as well as emotional supports.


*Adapted from Justice Resource Institute, Utilizing Trauma-Informed Approaches to Trafficking-related Work.