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7 Common Myths and Misconceptions about Human Trafficking in the U.S.

  • Under the Federal definition, trafficked persons can only be foreign nationals or are only immigrants from other countries.

Reality: The Federal definition of human trafficking includes both US citizens and foreign nations. Human trafficking encompasses both transnational trafficking that crosses borders and domestic or internal trafficking that occurs within a country.

  • Human Trafficking only occurs in illegal underground industries.

Reality: Elements of human trafficking can occur in the commercial sex industry as well as in situations of force labor services. Human trafficking encompasses both “sex trafficking” and “labor trafficking,” and can affect men and women, children and youth.

  • Human trafficking is another word for human smuggling.

Reality: There are many fundamental differences between the crimes of human trafficking and human smuggling. Both are entirely separate Federal crimes in the United States. Most notably, smuggling is a crime against country’s borders, whereas human trafficking is a crime against a person. Also, while smuggling requires illegal border crossing, human trafficking involves commercial sex acts or labor or services that are induced through force, fraud, or coercion regardless or whatever or not transportation occurs.

  • There must be elements of physical restraint, physical force, or physical bondage when identifying a trafficking situation.

Reality: The legal definition of trafficking does not require physical restraint, bodily harm, or physical force. Psychological means of control, such as threats, or abuse of the legal process, are sufficient elements of the crime.

  • Victims of trafficking will immediately ask for help or assistance and will self identify as a victim of crime.

Reality: Victims of trafficking often do not immediately seek help or self identity as victims of a crime due to lack of trust, self blame, or training by traffickers.

  • Trafficking victims always come from situations of poverty or from small rural villages.

Reality: Although poverty is highly correlated with human trafficking because it is often an indicator of vulnerability, poverty alone is not a single causal factor or universal indicator of a human trafficking victim.

  • Sex trafficking is the only form of human trafficking.

Reality: Elements of human trafficking can occur in the commercial sex industry as well as in situations of forced labor or services.

*Source: Polaris Project