As we share about human trafficking this month, we realize that many people may have false ideas or misconceptions about what human trafficking looks like. Which is why we are going to talk about five common myths related to human trafficking.
Myth #1: Human trafficking only occurs in developing countries, not the United States.
Truth: Human trafficking is a global epidemic. It occurs in cities and suburbs all across America. It has been reported in all 50 states. In a study published in 2017, it was estimated that there were about 403,000 victims of human trafficking in the United States. (International Labour Organization, 2017)
Myth #2: Victims are always kidnapped.
Truth: Though some victims may be kidnapped, it is not the only way people are trafficked. Many traffickers use online grooming to build trust with victims. Many are trafficked by close family friends, relatives, or boyfriends. In 2017, 14.4% of active criminal labor and sex trafficking cases involved defendants who trafficked their children, spouses, intimate partners, siblings, and other family members. (Federal Human Trafficking Report, 2018)
Myth #3: Human trafficking involves people being physically trapped or chained.
Truth: While some victims are physically and violently held against their will, many are psychologically manipulated, threatened, and trapped in commercial exploitation. A victim’s inability to get away could also be due to lack of resources or a safe place to live.
Myth #4: Only women are trafficked.
Truth: Though women are disproportionately affected by forced labor, men are also victims of human trafficking. According to a 2017 study, women account for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors. (International Labour Organization, 2017)
Myth #5: All commercial sex is human trafficking.
Truth: Commercial sex involving an adult is legally human trafficking if the person is doing so against their own will, as a result of force, fraud, or coercion. Under U.S. law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking — regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion. (Polaris Project, 2020)