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Myths and Facts About Human Trafficking

While it is undoubtedly true that human trafficking is a rampant crime that happens more than often, evident in the many malicious forms it takes that we have explored in the previous blog posts, there are still many misconceptions about this crime. These so-called “myths”, if not explained and corrected, will cause more people to fall victim to this crime. This post will explore some common myths about human trafficking, as well as the truth behind them. 

Myth 1: Only Women and Young Girls Are Trafficked 

Many cases of human trafficking involve women and children, especially young girls. As vulnerability is what traffickers look for when picking their victims, these make women and young girls their primary targets to coerce, force or manipulate into human trafficking schemes, most commonly for commercial sex acts. Given how often this happens, it’s commonly mistaken that only female targets can become victims. 

Fact? Men are victims too. 

While women and children are disproportionately affected by human trafficking, men are also victims of human trafficking, though it is a lot harder to identify male victims. Male victims are often trafficked for labor in industries such as agriculture, construction, and mining, where heavy labor is needed. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that nearly 40% of those trafficked for forced labor are men.  

Male victims are also quite common in other trafficking forms. In the case of trafficking for the purpose of organ harvesting, men can become easy targets due to the high demands for organ transplants from this demographic. Sex trafficking, despite being known to have more female victims than male, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has estimated that about half of the victims and survivors of this crime are male, although male victims are less likely to be identified. Young men and LGBTQ+ boys are primary targets in this case. 

This is also a reminder that the crime of human trafficking does not discriminate, and victims can still be trafficked regardless of race, gender, or age, if there is a vulnerability that traffickers can exploit. 


Myth 2: Human Trafficking Requires Movement Across Borders 

When “trafficking” is in the name of anything, it’s easy to assume that this crime occurs on an international scale, from one country to another. It’s also a reasonable assumption given how most of the time this crime happens near borders between countries. However, this is still a myth. 

Fact? Trafficking can happen anywhere. 

Trafficking can occur within a country, a state, or even a neighborhood. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), many victims are trafficked within their own countries. This crime doesn’t always operate on a global scale. 

The key element of trafficking to keep in mind is exploitation, not transportation. It’s easy to mistake human trafficking with human smuggling, which is another crime that involves illegal movement of people across borders, but they are not the same crime. However, human smuggling can turn into trafficking if the smuggler uses force, fraud, or coercion to hold people against their will for the purposes of exploitation once they have managed to illegally enter a different country.  


Myth 3: Human Trafficking Only Involves Sexual or Labor Exploitation 

In most cases when a trafficking crime is revealed to the public, the victims were usually forced to work without benefits/compensation or forced into doing sexual acts. This creates the assumption that human trafficking only claims victims who they deem fit for these two purposes. The reality, however, is a lot grimmer. 

Fact? Trafficking includes various forms of exploitation. 

Labor and sex trafficking are significant aspects of human trafficking, but they are not the only ways a victims can be exploited. As we have explored in previous blog posts, victims can also be forced to serve other purposes, be it domestic servitude, forced marriage, or organ removal. In worse cases, victims must comply with more than one method of human trafficking at once: they could have their organs harvested, then forced to work as their bodies continue to deteriorate. 


Myth 4 & 5: “Victims Are Always Physically Restrained or Locked Up” and “Victims Will Attempt to Seek Help in Public” 

As human trafficking, especially labor trafficking, is considered a form of modern slavery, it is easy to have an impression that victims are always physically restrained to prevent escape. Also, it is believed that victims subjected to harsh conditions will try to seek help if they are in public and away from the traffickers. While this may be true in some cases, traffickers have better ways to keep victims in check and evade the law. 

Fact? Psychological coercion and deception are common, and not all victims can (or even want) to reach out for help. 

Traffickers often use psychological manipulation, threats, and deception to control their victims. Victims may be coerced through threats to their family, debt bondage, or confiscation of identity documents. This form of control can be just as effective as physical restraints, making escape feel impossible.  

Should the victims flee or attempt to seek help in public, they cannot fully find freedom as the traffickers are keeping hold of their possessions, and they risk receiving retribution from the traffickers. To prevent their prey from escaping, traffickers may instill fear by threatening to harm the victims’ families or by leveraging victims’ undocumented status. Lack of awareness or contempt for the government are also some reasons why victims refuse to reach out, despite being held hostage in poor conditions. 


Myth 6: Human Trafficking Happens Only in Poor or Developing Countries 

Many people think that human trafficking victims only originate from poor or developing countries, where they can easily be deceived due to poor financial or educational backgrounds. This is a misconception, and it’s dangerous to think that you will not become a victim because you are living in a stable economy without any hardships. 

Fact? Trafficking happens everywhere, regardless of demographic and geographic status. 

Human trafficking is a global issue that affects every country, including wealthy and developed nations. The National Human Trafficking Hotline in the United States received over 11,500 reports of human trafficking in 2019 alone. Traffickers operate wherever they can exploit vulnerabilities, regardless of a country's economic status. 


Separating Myth from Fact 

Understanding the realities of human trafficking is essential in preventing yourself from becoming a victim and combating this crime. By removing these misleading “myths”, we can better recognize the signs of trafficking, support victims, and hold traffickers accountable. Awareness is a powerful tool, and nobody should be ignorant about the crime of human trafficking. 



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