January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Let's break down some of the misconceptions about human trafficking so that we can better understand the problem and equip ourselves to recognize the signs.
Myth 1. Human Trafficking does not occur in the United States.
Human trafficking has been reported in every single state in the United States. Human trafficking within the U.S. affects victims who are U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, visa holders, and undocumented workers. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which maintains one of the most extensive data sets on the issue of human trafficking in the United States, they received 4,460 cases of reported human trafficking in the U.S. in 2017 (National Human Trafficking Hotline).
Myth 2. Human Trafficking must involve some form of travel or movement across state or national borders.
Although transportation may be involved, it is not a required element of the trafficking definition. Human trafficking is not synonymous with forced migration or smuggling, which involve border crossing (Smuggling is a crime against a country's borders: human trafficking is a crime against a person). If someone is forced to work, engage in commercial sex against their will, or perform services that are induced through force, fraud or coercion, it is trafficking.
Myth 3. Only women and children are trafficked.
Anyone can experience human trafficking, even men. Traffickers pray on the vulnerable. Risk factors for trafficking include (but are not limited too): prior history of abuse or sexual violence, generational trauma, poverty, unemployment, and unstable living conditions, or homelessness.
Myth 4. Victims will be desperate to escape their trafficker and will ask for help or assistance.
Victims of trafficking often do not seek help or self-identify as victims of a crime. This can be due to a number of factors: including shame, self-blame, fear, or specific instructions from their traffickers on how to behave when interacting with others. Victims also may not realize that they have rights. Trafficking does not require physical restraint, physical force, or physical bondage. Psychological means of control are sufficient elements of the crime.
Myth 5. Human Trafficking only occurs in illegal underground industries.
Trafficking can occur in legal and legitimate business settings, as well as underground markets. Human trafficking has been reported in business markets such as restaurants, hotels, and manufacturing plants. Hundreds of products and goods produced around the world are made with forced child labor, you can review the list of products on the U.S. Dept. of Labor website and be a conscious consumer.
To learn more visit The Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign website on combatting human trafficking.