Updated: Dec 31, 2021
There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation surrounding the topic of Human Trafficking. Well-meaning people who want to stay informed and vigilant can get easily sucked into the sensationalized rhetoric and conspiracy theories. Today, we’re going to break down 5 common myths about Human Trafficking, and find out what the truth actually is. We will also go over some tips about credible vs. non-credible sources.
People are Kidnapped into Slavery
Smuggling and Trafficking are One and the Same
Most Trafficked Persons are Illegal Immigrants
Children are Sold into Slavery through Furniture Sales (and other Conspiracy Theories)
Human Trafficking Victims Will Ask for Help When Given the Chance
1. People are Kidnapped into Slavery
We're not saying this never happens, but it is FAR from likely from being the case in most instances of trafficking
In reality, traffickers usually use psychological methods to trap their victims
Most sex trafficking occurs at the hands of someone the victim knows and trusts, such as a boyfriend or family member
Labor trafficking in the US usually occurs when a seemingly reputable company sponsors an individual's work visa, only to hold their documents hostage and blackmail them into working for little to no money
The bonds that keep victims in trafficking are rarely physical, but instead include psychological manipulation, threats, and blackmail
2. Smuggling and Trafficking are One and the Same
Trafficking is a crime against a person, while smuggling is a crime against a border
Smuggling involves moving a consenting person across a border illegally, whereas trafficking is exploitative and doesn't require a person to be moved at all
A smuggler might use force, fraud, or coercion to hold people against their will and exploit them for labor or sex, in which case smuggling turns into trafficking
3. Most Trafficked Persons are Illegal Immigrants
Victims can be any race, gender, nationality, or socioeconomic group
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 4/5 victims in confirmed sex trafficking cases were identified as U.S. citizens
When victims are foreign nationals, the majority of the time they enter the US legally on a temporary work or student visa, only to be exploited by their sponsors
4. Children are Sold into Slavery through Furniture Sales (and other Conspiracy Theories)
There is not any evidence that backs up this popular recent conspiracy theory
Similar to the misconception about kidnapping, this conspiracy is based on the misconception that trafficking commonly occurs by forced bondage
Many other misleading, baseless stories have been going around the past few years, such as Pizzagate or the story of zip-ties on car door handles.
"Conspiracies distract from the more disturbing but simple realities of how sex trafficking actually works, and how we can prevent it" - Polaris Project
5. Human Trafficking Victims Will Ask for Help When in Public
Unfortunately, victims are often wary to seek help due to fear of retribution from their trafficker
Typical factors that prevent victims from seeking help include the trafficker's threats to harm their family, the trafficker controlling their documents, and fear of being legally persecuted
Trafficking victims often distrust law enforcement, because officers may treat the victim as a criminal rather than taking a victim-centered approach, and are even sometimes patrons of their "services"
How to Find the Truth?
When fear-mongering stories such as the Wayfair conspiracy are going around, your best bet is to check reports from your local HT task force and/or police force
If you know what trafficking actually looks like, this will help you determine what stories are probably real and fake
Check reputable sources such as Polaris, The National Human Trafficking Hotline, and FactCheck.org- avoid making calls to the HT hotline based on conspiracies that are circulating. The influx of reports they receive where no victim is witnessed limits their ability to provide services to actual victims.
Human Trafficking Hotline: Myths & Facts