Dispelling Myths and Misconceptions about Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is defined as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor against their will. This serious public health issue that impacts individuals, families, and communities.
Human trafficking can happen to anyone, but certain vulnerabilities can increase a person’s risk, including recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health issues, involvement with the children welfare system, and experiencing homelessness. Often, traffickers take advantage of their victims’ vulnerabilities to create dependency.
According to the United States Department of State, each year, an estimated 27.6 million people are trafficked worldwide. Despite the prevalence, there are many misconceptions about human trafficking.
Here are some of the common myths and misconceptions and clarifications about why they are inaccurate.
- Myth: Human trafficking often involves kidnapping or physically forcing someone into a situation. According to Polaris, the reality is most traffickers use psychological means, such as tricking, defrauding, threatening, or manipulating victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor.
- Myth: Human trafficking affects only women. While it is true that women are disproportionately trafficked, men also are victims of this crime. In fact, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has reported that more than a quarter of their cases involve male victims. This misconception is particularly dangerous because it can lead to a lack of resources and support for male trafficking victims.
- Myth: Human trafficking victims will attempt to seek help when in public. According to Blue Campaign, human trafficking is often a hidden crime. Victims may be afraid to come forward and get help; they may be forced or coerced through threats or violence; they may fear retribution from traffickers, including danger to their families; and they may not be in possession of or have control of their identification documents.
You can help play a role in reducing, preventing and ultimately ending human trafficking by learning the signs of this crime, raising awareness of human trafficking, and reporting suspected trafficking incidents to law enforcement or another appropriate authority. Experts have shared that individuals working in particular industries, such as hospitality and retail, may be more likely to recognize human trafficking because they are immersed in jobs where human trafficking tends to occurs.
During January, which is recognized as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the National Runaway Safeline has been actively sharing resources, educating our followers and supporters about this serious issue, and encouraging people to get involved with organizations that provide critical services to trafficking victims.
In order to protect those affected, it is important to dispel the misconceptions surrounding this crime. By understanding the realities of human trafficking, we can create more effective solutions to combat this problem.
If you suspect that someone is a victim of human trafficking, it is important to report it. If you see something suspicious, such as an individual who appears to be controlled by another person or who appears to be in an abusive situation, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or through their website, humantraffickinghotline.org.
Make sure to tune into the season 4 premiere of the Let’s Talk podcast, where we are joined by Polaris to further discuss the realities of trafficking. You can listen to every episode here.