by Comprehensive Staff

02/16/2016 12:48 am

5 Myths About Human Trafficking

In my role with Aspen Victim Advocacy Services, I come across a lot of misconceptions about trafficking and exploitation. Most people are well-meaning, but misinformed about what trafficking means, where it occurs, and who can be a victim. Often I will hear statements like “That doesn’t happen here” or “They chose that job” or “There’s nothing I can do.” To dispel some of these misunderstandings, the following is a list five myths about human trafficking.

Myth: Human trafficking is only about prostitution.
Fact: Human trafficking is defined as “a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his/her will.” Even the term “sex trafficking” includes exploited workers from all aspects of the sex industry—brothels, escort services, fake massage parlors, strip clubs, and yes, street prostitution. Labor trafficking exists in many industries, including agriculture, domestic work, factories, and food service.

Myth: Sex trafficking is a foreign problem, and doesn't happen in the United States or “our community".
Fact: Commercial sexual exploitation of youth happens in many United States cities, suburbs and rural towns including Yakima. Trafficking does not discriminate based country of birth or citizenship status.
Myth: Human trafficking is a relatively minor problem that affects only a small number of very poor people.
Fact: It is estimated that nearly 21 million people are trafficked each year, with over 1.5 million victims in the U.S., the European Union, and other developed countries. https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/type-trafficking/human-trafficking
Myth: All Traffickers are male. Victims are female.
Fact: Although most language reflects this thinking, women can be the exploiters too.  And victims can and do include girls and women, boys and men, and transgendered youth. Though sex trafficking does affect primarily girls and women, some estimate that boys and young men make up 3-12% of victims.
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/invisible-boys-inside-push-help-unseen-victims-sex-trade-n503921 and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harry-leibowitz/the-epidemic-thats-taking-childrens-lives_b_8940294.html

Myth: Sexually-exploited youth knew what they were getting into.
Fact: Victims of commercial sexual exploitation are often seduced, coerced, tricked or forced into prostitution. Pimps seek out youths’ vulnerabilities and exploit their needs and desires—for protection/security, for love and belonging, and for basic means of survival (i.e. food, shelter, and clothing). Being victimized in this manner is traumatic and requires a specialized therapeutic response.

 At Aspen, we know that human trafficking is a significant problem that will require multiple solutions. One way to address this problem is to spread awareness of the issue. In coordination with the Mercy Project of Washington, we held the 3rd Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Walk in downtown Yakima earlier this month. Aspen provides legal, emotional and on a limited basis financial assistance to those affected by trafficking as they get out of “the life”. Therapists and Advocates know the 12 concepts of serving those with complex trauma.  Find out more at this link: http://www.nctsn.org/resources/public-awareness/human-trafficking.