There are many myths and misconceptions that surround human trafficking. Media representation, lack of concrete data, and social stereotypes have deeply influenced the narratives about the crime.
This section aims to highlight common myths and misconceptions about human trafficking.
Victims of trafficking are always helpless and want to be rescued
This myth perpetuates the idea that all trafficking victims are kidnapped and restrained, or wanting desperately to escape or be rescued by others. Despite this myth, many victims are not locked into conditions of trafficking by physical bonds or restraint. Physical restraint, physical force, or bodily harm are not required in order to maintain control. There are psychological and emotional barriers that may force people into and maintain them within conditions of exploitation.
In addition, victims/survivors may not identify as victims because they feel they have chosen their conditions. They will sometimes participate in poor conditions because it is the best survival mechanism, economic opportunity, or logical option for them, or they may be unaware of their legal and civil rights. Lack of trust, self-blame, and bad previous experiences with service providers may also contribute to a victim/survivor's choice to not cooperate with law enforcement or service providers. The "savior mentality" can be very harmful to people who experience trafficking because their experiences are not 'black and white'. It is critical to recognize the power and autonomy of individuals who have experienced conditions of trafficking, and to acknowledge the variety of experiences victims may face when they are maintained in conditions of trafficking.
Only foreign nationals are trafficked
People of all ages, walks of life, socio-economic statuses, genders, migratory statuses, and more can fall victim to the crime of human trafficking. However, a person can have vulnerabilities that increases their susceptibility to human trafficking. Some of these vulnerabilities include: poverty, history of trauma or physical abuse, compromised legal or migratory status, experiences of homelessness, LGBTQ+ identity, or membership in a marginalized community. Human trafficking is happening all around the world, including here in Louisiana. There is no 'perfect victim' for this crime: it can happen anywhere, to anybody.
'Human smuggling' and 'human trafficking' are the same thing
Though these terms are often used interchangeably, there is a marked difference between the two. Human smuggling can happen as as part of human trafficking, or human trafficking can occur without smuggling or movement of any kind.
Human smuggling is the illegal movement of a person across a border. This can happen with or without a persons consent, and therefore is not necessarily a form of human trafficking. Human smuggling is a crime against a border.
Human trafficking is the force, fraud or coercion, of a person for purposes of labor or sexual exploitation. Human trafficking does not requirement movement of any kind. Human trafficking is a crime against a person.
Though sex trafficking is the type of trafficking that we hear about most often, labor trafficking is just as exploitative and deserving of attention. According to IOM global counter-trafficking statistics, 17% of victims in the world have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, while 74% have been trafficked for forced labor and services. Though global statistics often suggest that labor trafficking occurs more frequently than sex trafficking, the majority of the anti-trafficking dialogue surrounds sex trafficking.
In addition, human trafficking happens on a spectrum of exploitation. People experiencing conditions of trafficking may experience sexual trauma while in forced labor conditions, just as people experiencing sex trafficking might also be in conditions of debt bondage or forced labor. The forms of exploitation may overlap. Recognizing that no human should experience trafficking, regardless of the type, is the first step to better serving all of the members of our communities.
Sex trafficking is the only form of human trafficking
According to the U.S. TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) sex trafficking is "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age"; and labor trafficking is the "recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery."
This means that according to U.S. law, adults who consent to participate in sex work are not sex trafficking victims. However, by federal law any person under the age of 18 who participates in a commercial sex act is automatically considered a victim of human trafficking regardless of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion. Federal law distinguishes between sex work and sex trafficking except in cases involving minors OR cases that involve force, fraud, or coercion.
Human trafficking and sex work/prostitution are the same thing
To learn about other common myths and misconceptions, the following resources may be helpful.
- General Myths and Misconceptions: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/what-human-trafficking/myths-misconceptions
- General Myths and Misconceptions: https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/myths-and-misconceptions
- Sex Trafficking and Sporting Events: https://polarisproject.org/blog/2016/02/05/super-bowl-myth
- Hollywood and Human Trafficking Representation: http://theconversation.com/movies-and-myths-about-human-trafficking-51300
- Age of Entry in Human Trafficking: https://polarisproject.org/blog/2016/01/05/average-age-entry-myth