Human Trafficking Prevention Month: Common Myths About Human Trafficking

By USCRI January 29, 2024

Whether it is a movie depicting glamorized versions of victims and pimps or a recent TikTok trend that presents human trafficking as solely a snatch and grab scenario, the public receives conflicting and confusing information about human trafficking.

Since the public plays a major role in the identification and reporting of suspected human trafficking, it is crucial to dispel myths to better address the problem. However, if the public is looking for the stereotypical victim depicted in the media, they may miss the traffickers’ operating in their own communities.

Here are some common myths about human trafficking:


  1. Myth: Human trafficking only happens in developing countries.
    • Reality: Human trafficking occurs worldwide, including in developed countries. It is not limited to any specific region or economic status.


  2. Myth: Human trafficking always involves physical force or kidnapping.
    • Reality: Many victims are manipulated or coerced through psychological means or are defrauded, rather than controlled through outright physical force. This includes tactics such as false job promises, fake marriages, or threats of going to immigration or other law enforcement authorities.


  3. Myth: Human trafficking only involves sex trafficking.
    • Reality: Labor trafficking includes involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, slavery, and other forms of forced labor. It is not limited to any particular industry or sector.


  4. Myth: Victims will always ask for help if they are being trafficked.
    • Reality: Victims often fear retribution or harm to themselves or their families. They may also be manipulated into believing that the authorities cannot be trusted. Fear, shame, immigration status, and language barriers can prevent victims from seeking help.


  5. Human trafficking involves the movement or transportation of a person across state or national borders.
    • Reality: Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling, which involves illegal border crossings. Human trafficking does not require the crossing of borders, as it can occur within countries, states, and communities. It is not solely an issue of transnational crime.


  6. Myth: Only women and girls can be victims of sex trafficking.
    • Reality: Men and boys also fall victim to sex trafficking. Exploitation occurs regardless of gender, age, or background. Male victims are less likely to be identified, and LGBTQIA+ boys and young men are particularly vulnerable.


  7. Myth: If the trafficked person consented to their initial situation, it cannot be human trafficking.
    • Reality: Initial consent to commercial sex or a labor setting is irrelevant if the perpetrator uses force, fraud, or coercion to maintain control over the victim. Commercial sex of a minor is always sex trafficking regardless of consent.


  8. Myth: Individuals in trafficking situations are physically held captive and are unable to leave their situation.
    • Reality: While this is sometimes the case, individuals in trafficking situations more often remain captive owing to a variety of other reasons. Some lack the resources to physically leave a trafficking situation, such as transportation or stable housing. Others are afraid for their own or their family’s safety, and others are so effectively manipulated that they do not yet identify as being under the control of another person.


  9. Myth: Traffickers only target people they do not know.
    • Reality: Many survivors have been trafficked by romantic partners, family members, or supposed friends.


  10. Myth: Human trafficking is only a criminal issue, not a human rights issue.
    • Reality: Human trafficking is a violation of human rights. It involves the exploitation and abuse of individuals, depriving them of their freedom and dignity. Addressing human trafficking requires both legal measures and a human rights perspective.



It is crucial to combat these myths to foster a more accurate understanding of human trafficking and to support effective prevention and intervention efforts. If you suspect someone is in a potential trafficking situation, contact a relevant anti-trafficking organization, such as the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888, via text at 2333733, or USCRI’s trafficking services: 1-800-307-4712 or via email at  tvap@uscrimail.org and/or aspire@uscrimail.org. Reporting your suspicions to the appropriate authorities can help ensure a proper investigation and the safety of the victim.


Also Read: Human Trafficking Prevention Month: What is Labor Trafficking?

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