It’s hard to face the truth, especially about a subject that many of us try to avoid: sex trafficking. It doesn’t often happen right before our eyes, so we learn about it from the media and various sources of information. This can lead many people to develop misconceptions about the realities of sex trafficking. It is important to be well-informed about these realities in order to effectively fight it.
The following myths are common misconceptions that many have about sex trafficking:
Sex trafficking is only found in illegal underground industries that the general public doesn’t come in contact with.
Reality: Sex trafficking can occur within legal and illegal industries. Trafficking situations have been found and reported in local businesses such as hotels and restaurants.
Recent research has shown that even massage parlors are a big culprit in sex trafficking. Polaris research states, “This industry makes over 2.5 billion dollars annually, and lures people through a ‘built-in cover story for sex buyers’ who just want a massage. These industries can be deceiving, leading to a tragic aftermath of events.”
Women and children in poverty are the only demographic at risk for being trafficked.
Reality: Poverty, lack of education, and the breakdown of a family are three things that can increase a child’s vulnerability to sex trafficking. Although poverty is one of the things that can make a child very vulnerable, children in poverty are not the only children at risk. History of sexual abuse or homosexuality combined with other vulnerabilities can increase a child’s risk for being trafficked as well. It makes one believe that the only normal way for them to live life, gain approval, or acceptance is through loyalty to their trafficker.
Women and children are not the only victims of trafficking. The 2016 Global Trafficking in Persons report states that 79 percent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children. This means that over 20 percent of detected victims are male. Trafficking is a serious issue across various ages, genders, and ethnicities.
It is not possible to fight or put an end to the global issue of sex trafficking.
Reality: Trafficking happens everywhere. Even in the United States, every state has reported cases of sex trafficking. As informed citizens, we have the ability to recognize and report the signs and behavior of victims and their culprits. As we become more aware of the issue, we can decrease the amount of sex trafficking incidents across the nation and world.
On average, one child sex predator or trafficker will abuse over 100 victims in their lifetime. Consequently, prosecuting just one of them has the potential of saving over 100 individuals from further abuse or from ever being abused in the first place. Knowing this, we CAN attack the problem by recognizing the signs behind such tragedies and deciding to act.
In 2014, O.U.R. rescued 123 victims in Operation Triple Take. When the O.U.R. team went back undercover for the fifth or sixth time after this giant operation, no one would sell kids to them. “They referenced all of these hits that were going on,” Ballard said. The traffickers said, “It’s too dangerous to be in the child trafficking business in this region at this time.”
The deterrent effect worked. It is possible to put an end to this global issue.
All trafficking victims are under physical force/bondage.
Reality: Physical harm is one method of control that traffickers use, but psychological abuse is a trafficker’s main method of control. They threaten their victims to create fear in order to make them stay. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000) created new federal crimes that are acting to expand and address broader forms of coercion and harm.
All sex trafficking victims will try and seek help from the public.
Reality: Many victims will not seek help out of fear, abuse, shame, or other various reasons. They also could have been instructed by their traffickers on how to react in public to not uncover their identity. They may not realize their rights or may not realize they are a victim of a crime because it might be the only life they know.
Many times, victims think staying in a life of exploitation is the only way they can survive. They are not concerned with seeking help because they don’t think they need it, or there are too many threats preventing them from escaping.
So What Now?
It’s essential for us to be able to recognize these kinds of misconceptions so we can truly be aware of how and where sex trafficking is occurring in our world. No one deserves to have a life such as this, and we must commit to help give every person the life they deserve. It is our right and responsibility as humans to recognize this injustice. You can be the difference that prevents such tragedy from occurring in our future.
by Sophia Shafkalis for Operation Underground Railroad.