We often assume that trafficking only impacts certain types of individuals, such as those living in abject poverty with little to no access to education. While certain factors do make some populations exceptionally vulnerable to human trafficking, there is no “typical” profile. Anyone can become a victim regardless of sex, age, race, citizenship status, socioeconomic level or educational attainment. For example, individuals may be highly educated, speak multiple languages and hold university degrees, while others may have little to no schooling or academic achievement. Understanding that no one is immune to victimization allows us to improve prevention and victim identification strategies.

Let’s go over some additional misconceptions:

Myth #1: Human trafficking only occurs in the form of sexual commercial exploitation.
Truth: Of the 24.9 million victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation worldwide, nearly 81% are victims of forced labor, according to an estimate from the International Labour Organization. Polaris, an anti-trafficking NGO, identified 25 types of human trafficking in the United States,..18 of which include some form of labor exploitation. Some of the industries involved are manufacturing, agriculture, domestic house work, hospitality, begging, landscaping, traveling sale crews, as well as health and beauty services.

Myth #2: Most victims of human trafficking are kidnapped and do not know their captors.
Truth: According to the International Human Trafficking Institute kidnapping victims is a risk for traffickers. Traffickers are more likely to recruit and groom their victims, offering them emotional support, false opportunities for a better life (such as steady employment and education), or even promises of romance.

Myth #3: In order to be trafficked you have to be taken to another country.
Truth: Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), you do not have to be transported from one country to another to be considered a victim of human trafficking. It is not even necessary to cross state lines. In fact, trafficking can occur within a victim’s own community.  The TVPA protects both foreign born nationals and U.S. citizens who are survivors of a severe form of trafficking.

Myth #4: Legal businesses do not profit from forced labor and exploitation.
Truth: While human trafficking does occur in illicit underground industries such as brothels and the drug trade, it is also found in legitimate businesses, such as in the hotel, construction, agriculture, and restaurant sectors.

Myth #5: If a victim of human trafficking is undocumented in the United States, they cannot be protected by legal authorities or receive services.
Truth: Trafficking of any persons, regardless of their immigration status, is illegal in the United States. Foreign born nationals who are victims of human trafficking can receive a number of benefits. under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).  For example, they may seek immigration relief by applying for a T Visa, as well as receive comprehensive case management services through the Trafficking Victim Assistance Program (TVAP) to help with their journey toward recovery.

Myth #6: The average person has never benefited from services or goods produced by a victim of human trafficking.
Truth: Given the ubiquitous nature of forced labor, the average person has purchased goods or services that were produced, at least in part, by victims of human trafficking. This includes everything from fish, cotton, rice, cement, and even Christmas decorations, according to the United States Department of Labor.

Truth: Myth #7:  Victims are always kept in chains and physically abused.
Truth: Men, women, and children do not need to be kept in chains or beaten to be considered victims of trafficking. Traffickers often use methods of fraud and coercion to “imprison” their victims. This may take many different forms, including threatening to kill or harm loved ones, tricking the victim into thinking he/she owes him/her a debt, or threatening deportation in the case of the foreign-born victims.

Myth #8: The problem is so overwhelming and big there is nothing I can do to make a difference.
Truth: Every person can help to bring an end to human trafficking. Request a free toolkit from our Become a SHEPHERD program to learn more about the signs of trafficking and how to educate others. Each one of us can take steps to become more involved in the growing movement to end modern-day slavery.