Top 10 Myths About Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and a crime against humanity. It enslaves millions of men, women, and children for labor, sex, and other forms of exploitation in the United States and in other countries. Human trafficking is a crime that should have no place in the 21st century, and there are many misconceptions and myths about human trafficking.

Learn the top 10 human trafficking myths:

Myth #1: There is no such thing as human trafficking in the United States. It only happens in other countries.

Human trafficking exists in every country, including the United States. It exists nationwide—in cities, suburbs, and rural towns—and possibly in your own community.

Myth #2: Human trafficking victims are only foreign born individuals.

Human trafficking victims are both United States born citizens and foreign born individuals. Victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality.

Myth #3:  Human trafficking victims are only those who are poor.

Human trafficking victims come from all socio-economic backgrounds. Even a wealthy individual with high education can become a victim. Traffickers prey on an individual’s vulnerability and exploit it.

Myth #4:  Human trafficking means sex trafficking and exploiting someone for sexual purposes.

You may have heard about sex trafficking, but forced labor is also a significant and prevalent type of human trafficking. Victims are found in legitimate and illegitimate labor industries, including sweatshops, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels, and domestic service. Note that sex trafficking and forced labor are both forms of human trafficking, involving exploitation of a person.

Myth #5: Individuals must be forced or coerced into commercial sex acts to be a victim of human trafficking.

According to the U.S. federal law on human trafficking, any minor under the age of 18 who is induced to perform commercial sex acts is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether he or she is forced or coerced.

Myth #6: Human trafficking must involve transportation, movement, or travel.

Human trafficking does not require transportation or movement across neighborhoods, cities, states or national borders. An individual can be trafficked even while living at their own home.

Myth #7: Human trafficking and human smuggling are the same.

Human trafficking is not the same as smuggling. “Trafficking” is exploitation-based and does not require movement across borders. Human trafficking is a crime committed against an individual. “Smuggling” is movement-based and involves moving a person across a country’s border with that person’s consent, in violation of immigration laws. Smuggling is a crime committed against a country and its borders.

Myth #8: If an individual agrees to the “deal” it’s not trafficking.

Even though an individual may have consented to do something at one point, but are currently in an exploitative situation where they want to leave but are held against their will, it is considered trafficking. For example, although human smuggling is very different from human trafficking, human smuggling can turn into trafficking if the smuggler uses force, fraud, or coercion to hold people against their will for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation.

Myth #9: All human trafficking victims attempt to seek help when in public.

Human trafficking victims may not always seek help immediately. Victims rarely self-identify or know their rights and the services available to them. 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 or have control of their identification documents, leaving them in difficult situations.

Myth #10: Human trafficking only occurs in illegal underground industries.

Human trafficking is a hidden crime happening right under our noses in our own neighborhoods. It can occur in legal and legitimate industries as well as in underground industries. Labor and sex trafficking occurs in areas such as restaurants, hotels, casinos, construction, farms, massage parlors, nail salons, residential brothels, and street based prostitution.

Learn more about human trafficking.


Sources of information:

Department of Homeland Security
National Human Trafficking Hotline