Safety Planning

This safety planning information is intended to help human trafficking victims, or those who may be at risk of being trafficked.

Safety planning involves:

  1. Identifying current and potential risks and safety concerns
  2. Creating plans to reduce risk and avoid/reduce harm
  3. Developing options that can be used when safety is threatened

Safety planning should reflect an individual’s risk assessment of their own situation and concerns. A safety plan is more likely to be used if it includes actions that an individual is comfortable with and has self-identified as being realistic.

For organizations or individuals (e.g. friends or family) helping a victim of trafficking with safety planning, it may be helpful to review the warning signs of sex and labour trafficking found on our website.

  1. Trust your judgment and intuition/instincts
    • If someone promises you something (e.g. easy/quick money for little effort) that seems too good to be true, the situation may likely be different than described.
    • If someone makes you feel uncomfortable with their words or actions, trust how you feel and what your instincts tell you.
    • If an environment, location, or situation makes you nervous, try to remove yourself from the situation if you can.
    • If your romantic partner asks you to do things you do not like, are worried about, or are uncomfortable with (i.e. photographing or videotaping sexual activity or nudity, forceful sex acts, engaging in commercial sex or sex acts with his/her friends or strangers, abusing drugs or alcohol, etc.), tell that person that you do not like it. Also, tell a trusted person of your concerns in case things become worse.
  2. Allow a trusted friend, relative, or other person to help keep you safe
    • Stay in touch with this trusted person and let them know when you have concerns about your situation.
    • Set up safety words with this trusted person that you can use to let them know it is safe to talk, or you are not safe and need assistance. Create actions that you would like them to do if you use a certain safety word (e.g. call 911 for you, meet you somewhere to pick you up, end the call because you are not safe to talk, etc.).
    • Keep this trusted person’s contact information with you at all times.
    • Inform your trusted person if you will be travelling or moving to another location.
  3. Keep possession of all your important documents and identification
    • Nobody has the right to take or hold your personal documents (e.g. driver’s licence, passport, credit card, bank card, birth certificate, etc.)
    • Make photocopies of your important documents and identification and keep them in a safe place that you can access if your documents are taken from you. If you are comfortable with it, consider giving these copies to your trusted person. You can also scan your important documents and ID and send the picture file to a safe email address that you have access to.
    • Keep a list of any medications you are taking with your important documents.
  4. Try to keep control and possession of some way to communicate and to access your money
    • Keep possession of a cellphone if possible. If keeping your phone is difficult, have a second cheap phone for emergencies – store it somewhere safe for your access only.
    • Have a prepaid calling card that you can use as a back-up plan.
    • Try to maintain access to your bank account or another safe way of obtaining money, especially for emergency use.
  5. Be aware and careful when using technology such as smartphones and computers
    • Create a separate email account (using a neutral, non-identifying email address) to use with a trusted person if you are concerned your usual email account is being monitored.
    • Use public computers (e.g. at libraries and community centres) if your computer/smartphone searches and activity are being monitored.
    • Learn to disable and/or delete computer and smartphone functions which can be used to monitor your activity such as browser history, search engine history, chat logs, and histories on social media.
    • Be careful with what you post on social media sites. Too much personal information can be used by traffickers. Posting information about friends, families, your schedule or location, your daily activities and so forth can make you vulnerable to manipulation and threats. Learn to disable the GPS and location functions when posting to social media accounts, including location tags on photos.
    • Change your passwords/PINs to email accounts, phone apps, bank accounts, and other important tools frequently. Do not allow a computer to remember your password.
    • Empty your email account’s Sent and Trash folders regularly. Choose the setting that automatically deletes their contents after each session ends.
  6. Contact responsible organizations for assistance or information
    • Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.
    • Contact the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010 for referrals to social services and supports (such as shelters, medical assistance, legal advice, emergency transportation, etc.) and to law enforcement if you wish. The hotline can also help with general information on trafficking issues and situations, as well as help with safety planning.
    • Victim Services can also be accessed by calling 211.

In addition to the points above, the following points can be considered to help ensure your safety when trying to leave a trafficking situation:

  1. Try to determine your location if you do not know it – this is important if you make a call for assistance and need to move farther away from the area. Clues to your location include street signs, mailing envelopes, building addresses, and signs in building lobbies. If it is safe to go outside, ask someone on the street or in a store for the location.
  2. Keep your documents on or near you.
  3. Memorize a few important phone numbers of people or organizations that can help you in case your phone is taken from you.
  4. If it is possible to carry a bag, pack a small amount of important items such as a change of clothes, medications, prepaid calling card, important phone numbers, etc.
  5. Plan an escape route and rehearse how you will make your way. Try to find and remember potential places to ask for help – pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices, stores, restaurants, banks, etc.
  6. Contact a trusted person to let them know of your intention to leave. Ask for help if you feel safe to do so.
  7. Determine if a taxi or public transit is a safe option, and try to find out where you can be picked up without putting yourself in danger.
  8. Contact the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-833-900-1010 for assistance including urgent transportation, shelter, and other social services.
  9. If you find yourself in immediate danger, call 911 and clearly tell them what actions you need taken to become safe.