Identifying Red Flags of Modern Slavery

A woman with dark skin and curly hair tied in a bun, sits on the floor and looks out a window.

Red flags’ are what people call warning signs in relationships or situations that are dangerous or abusive. Sometimes it is very hard to see the warning signs, and you only learn what the ‘red flags’ are after you get out of an abusive situation like modern slavery.

Green text says: “If you are drowning and someone throws you a life-line you don’t usually stop to ask what colour it is, or if you might cut your hands on it – you just take it”

For many of us, the desperate situations we were in, made it very hard to see ‘red flags’. When people ask a survivor, “why didn’t you see the red flags?” or “how did you miss those red flags?” it can feel like victim-blaming.

Often, we didn’t have the right information to know what the red flags were. We have gone over and over the warning signs we wish we hadn’t missed, but there were many complicated reasons why we either didn’t see them, or were desperate enough to ignore them.

Learning to identify red flags for the future can help us to avoid other situations of abuse. Here are some of the red flags we have learned about:

A red flag

Promises of conditions that seem 'too good to be true'

Unfortunately, things that sound too good to be true, are usually NOT true. This is a big part of deceptive recruitment.

Mixed messages and interactions

Flattery, compliments, gifts and promises that make things more ‘personal’ than just work. This can turn into grooming or love bombing.

It can change a ‘work’ situation into feeling like you ‘owe’ someone a more personal relationship.

A red flag
A red flag

Offers to “take care of everything”

A place to live, paying for study, travel costs, food, and promises to make you ‘successful'. These things rarely come without strings, and are often used as a way of trapping someone in situations of debt bondage.

Controlling behaviour

The person you work for tries to control your actions, thoughts, or choices, even in things that don’t involve work.

This may involve monitoring your phone or social media use, or trying to control your finances or other aspects of your life.

They may tell you that they are doing this for your ‘safety’ but it often becomes a way that you feel trapped.

A red flag
A red flag

Isolating you

Telling you who you can and can’t spend time with. You may start to find that it becomes more difficult to talk to or spend time with people you were close to before.

The person you are working for may make you feel you can’t trust anyone outside of the situation and make you feel bad for trying to have a life outside.

Eventually you might feel completely cut off from the outside world.

Blaming and criticism

Insults, belittling, or putting you down in front of others can become a way of breaking down your confidence and self-worth.

This can start to make you feel like you can’t do anything right and wouldn’t cope in the world outside of your situation.

A red flag
A red flag

Unwillingness to respect boundaries

If someone constantly ignores your boundaries, it is a warning sign.

This might be pushing you to do things you are uncomfortable with.

You might not feel free to make decisions for yourself, or could be pressure with drugs, alcohol, or sexual interactions you are uncomfortable with.

You might feel you can’t say no, because you are relying on them for your income.

Explosive anger or mood swings

The person might frighten you with how quickly they become angry about things you didn’t think would cause an issue. You might start to become afraid of their anger and try to do everything you can to keep them happy.

A red flag
A red flag

Gaslighting you

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that manipulates someone into doubting their own perceptions or reality.

This may involve denying or twisting events, manipulating information, or making you feel like you are "crazy" or "overreacting” if you try to question things.

Issues with contract/paperwork you haven’t read or can’t understand

Sometimes they will tell you it's not necessary to sign any contract, and everything is “off the books” so you can make extra cash. This can be a way they can avoid being held responsible for deceptive recruitment.

A red flag

Trust your intuition

A person with shoulder length blonde is hanging their head over their knees. A gently smiling cat touches them softly.

It's important to trust your instincts and pay attention to any warning signs or red flags that you may be experiencing. If something seems wrong, trust your gut and reach out for help and support from someone safe.

Find out more about exploitation, human trafficking and modern slavery:

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