According to the Five Sparrows organization, there are approximately 45.8 million human trafficking victims around the globe today. Human trafficking is the 2nd largest international organized crime (with the sale of illegal drugs being the 1st). Reportedly, human trafficking brings in more money than Amazon, Google, and eBay COMBINED!
However, like with most organized crime schemes, many people have misconceptions about human trafficking. With January being Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I am going to debunk 5 of the most common myths I've heard about the issue.
1. "It only happens overseas"
A lot of people rest assured *knowing that human trafficking is something that would never (or hardly ever) take place on American soil; however, that is perhaps one of the worst, most FALSE misconceptions you can have about the issue. Human trafficking does happen in America. In fact, quite frequently. In 2018 over 10,000 (10,011 to be specific) victims of human trafficking were identified in the western hemisphere, according to the U.S. Dept. of State's 2018 TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report. The TIP Report is compiled each year using statistics on human trafficking occurrences taken from all participating countries across the globe. It is one of the most accurate and comprehensive reports on the prevalence of human trafficking.
You can view the 2018 TIP Report here: https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/282798.pdf
2. "Human Trafficking and smuggling are the same thing"
Um, not quite. Smuggling and human trafficking are considered to be two totally different crimes in America. Under U.S. law, smuggling is crossing the country's border illegally, whereas, human trafficking, dubbed "modern-day slavery" by Homeland Security, "involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act." This is without regard to transportation occurring or not. A simpler way to remember the difference between the two crimes is that, "smuggling is a crime against a country's borders; human trafficking in a crime against a person (Polaris Project)."
"Common Myths and Misconceptions about Human Trafficking in the U.S." (Polaris Project): https://humantraffickinghotline.org/sites/default/files/Common%20Myths%20and%20Misconceptions.pdf
"What is human trafficking?" (Homeland Security): https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/what-human-trafficking
3. "Human trafficking happens like it did in 'Taken' "
So, getting tricked and snatched by a handsome predator can be likely, but traffickers don't usually barter with the parents of the victims for potential release of that victim (like shone in Taken) - at least, not in any of the cases, I know of. In the case of teenage girls, they are often tricked by an older guy who seems to know all the "right" things to say to them. Yet, the similarities between real-life trafficking cases and the one in Taken likely ends here.
View this link for some real-life survivor stories: https://polarisproject.org/stories?keys=&field_categories_tid=43753&field_initiatives_tid=All&field_blog_author_target_id=All
4. "Commercial sex is the only form of trafficking"
Yeahhhhh, this idea couldn't be farther from the truth! As mentioned in myth #2, human trafficking includes forced sex or labor acts. Human trafficking, although complex in its nature, is easy to understand from a conceptual standpoint. As the term "modern" slavery implies forcibly taking away the rights of another for personal gain, making the victim a commodity; one that can be used for a variety of reasons, ranging from picking beans to offering sexual services.
5. "It only affects women and girls"
And the award for the biggest misconception goes to *drum role*...myth #5!!!! Just a glance at the majority of trafficking cases will debunk this myth. But, to expand, human trafficking affects ALL people - yet, factors like color, age, social status, and the area in which you live can have a hand to play in the likelihood of becoming a victim. Women and girls make up the majority of trafficking victims (especially in the case of sex trafficking), but men and boys are still greatly affected by trafficking; namely, labor trafficking.
After reading this article, I'm sure it's clear to see how human trafficking is a major crime. We see more and more reports from the media of victims being found, and of traffickers and pimps going to trial. It can truly happen to anyone, from anywhere. It's important to be knowledgeable because trafficking will continue to persist if we stay ignorant about the issue. Human Trafficking Awareness Month is the perfect time to start educating yourself!