Myths vs. Reality

Trafficking in Person (aka Human Trafficking)1
Ten Myths/Misconceptions Versus Reality

  • I. Myth: Human Trafficking involves movement of people from one country to another.

    REALITY: Human Trafficking does not require the movement of a person. It is exploitation of someone’s labor or service. In other words, unlike drug trafficking which does require movement, human trafficking is a human rights violation which can begin and end in our neighborhoods.

  • II. Myth: Human Trafficking is primarily commercial sex trafficking.

    REALITY: Commercial sex trafficking is more visible and often the focus of governments and media reports. Thus, statistics of commercial sex trafficking are higher. But labor/service trafficking (through fraud, coercion or force) is more prevalent, with individual workers hidden in homes and small businesses throughout our communities. Until these incidents of trafficking are better identified and documented, these forms of labor and service exploitation will be under-reported.

  • III. Myth: Human Trafficking involves young women.

    REALITY: While women are disproportionately victims of commercial sex or forced labor trafficking, men, women and children of all ages are trafficked. Ages range from young children to older men and women.

  • IV. Myth: Human Trafficking victims are poor and uneducated.

    REALITY: Many human trafficking victims are from poor communities seeking opportunities for work and education, but some victims are educated or from middle class families who have been tricked into forced work.

  • V. Myth: Human Trafficking victims are held by force behind barbed wire, with guns, with locked doors, and whose movement is restricted.

    REALITY: Many trafficking victims are trapped in commercial sex or forced labor through threats (veiled or explicit) to themselves or family members. Some are trapped by an alleged debt that is difficult, if not impossible, to pay off. Some victims have freedom of movement but feel they cannot leave their situation because of threats of physical harm or threats to call police or immigration or because they truly believe they must pay off their debt.

  • VI. Myth: Traffickers in Persons are members of criminal organizations.

    REALITY: Some traffickers are part of large criminal organizations, gangs or drug cartels, but others are small business owners and individuals. Some trafficking is done by family members of the victims.

  • VII. Myth: Human Trafficking requires that persons reach their final destination and are forced to engage in commercial sex, labor, or services.

    REALITY: Human Trafficking can include recruiting through fraud, coercion or force for the purposes of forced labor or sex. The victims may be rescued before being forced to do the work and still be victims of human trafficking.

  • VIII. Myth: Human Trafficking victims are helpless “victims” with no role in their exploitation.

    REALITY: Sometimes victims are required to pay for their own transportation to the location of their forced work. Sometimes victims know the type of work they will perform – e.g. commercial sex work, but are not informed that they would not be paid or that the conditions of their work would change. Sometimes victims are aware that they may not be paid for several months or years until they pay off their alleged “debt”. However, the traffickers are not absolved of their exploitation and human rights violation, even if some victims have had a role in their trafficking.

  • IX. Myth: Human Trafficking victims will be grateful to be “rescued”.

    REALITY: All human beings want to be free to work without being exploited. Human trafficking victims want to earn an income and improve their lives. But traffickers have often made victims afraid of the outside world, convincing their victims not to trust anyone other than the trafficker. Victims may be fearful of their “rescuers” or fearful of retaliation to family members if they do not return to the trafficker.

  • X. Myth: Human Trafficking is not taking place in my neighborhood.

    REALITY: Actually, it can and often does. It is hidden in plain sight in our neighborhoods. The key is to be aware and know where to report suspicions that someone is possibly being exploited and might feel unable to leave their work situation.