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Human Trafficking Fact and Fiction

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Human Trafficking Fact and Fiction

By Ashley Fantigrossi



Editor’s note- Between the recent arrest of 32 adults, including two youth pastors, for trying to purchase sex from a minor, and the arrest of activist Charles Wade for human trafficking, the internet is flooded with questions and half-truths about human trafficking. So we thought we’d separate fact from fiction.


What you See and Hear about Child Sex Trafficking may not be True


If you’re reading this article, you care about the cause of human trafficking or child safety, but are you the type of person who is critical about the messages you are given on the topic? What I’m positioning in this article, is not to donate to a specific cause or charity, not to back a hero or heroine, but to champion awareness and sensitivity to the topics of abuse that affect children, specifically under the heading of sex trafficking.


I recently went to the movies with some coworkers and saw The Equalizer. The movie was high on energy, violence, and suggestive material. Regardless, the movie had an underlying message of standing up for the injustice exacted upon a young trafficking victim. Frankly, I don’t think we see ourselves running around a Home Depot, guns blazing all for the honor of a trafficked girl, but I do think we share the core belief that the vulnerable and innocent should be protected.


My call to action is criticism and sensitivity to the details surrounding sex trafficking and child abuse, because in the absence of reality, experienced people tend to reference the reality perceived, in order to better understand something they aren’t familiar with. Take a look at the chart below to see what elements of this film were true to life, and which were sensationalized:


True Trafficked Girl was Foreign Immigrants are one of the most highly targeted groups by traffickers. This is often due to language and cultural barriers, which act as vulnerabilities that allow traffickers to exploit them more easily. However, most minors trafficked in the United States are citizens.
True Friends of Victims Very often traffickers will task their victims with recruiting their friends – exploiting their trusted relationships in order to protect themselves from their trafficker.
True Victims are not bound in chains Forceful kidnapping and containment is not the majority in modern day slavery. Many children are entrapped through empty promises or false job offers. They are not bound, but scared to seek help or threatened if they leave.
True This happens in the United States According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited children, “Pimps market and sell children for sex –- openly –- at popular online classified sites like Backpage. They sell them at truck stops. They sell them on streets in every city in America.”
True The victim was under age The average age for entry into prostitution in the United States is 13.
False Only girls are trafficked for sex While it’s true that the majority of children trafficked for sex are girls, boys are not immune to abuse and commercial exploitation. Most commonly, communities of older boys and young men that approach, coerce and recruit other boys into a life of sexual exploitation.
False Victims are happy to be helped Many youth caught up in commercial sex live in fear of law enforcement. The anxiety that can be generated by a “rescue” experience is compounded if the child doesn’t yet understand themselves to be a victim.
False After being separated from their traffickers, victims can lead “normal” lives To be removed from a situation of trafficking for a victim may mean being taken away from what has become familiar and predictable and placed into an unknown future. This is why many victims reintegrate themselves into these underground systems, and why it is important that rehabilitation take place.
False Mob & Gang Connections While trafficking is a form of organized crime, people who participate in the sex trade are frequently common individuals who are looking to make money in a criminal way and don’t think they are going to get caught.
False Clients of prostitution are ugly and undesirable to women In many cases, those buying, selling and abusing children appear to live ordinary respectable lives. Perpetrators often seek out positions of trust and power in order to gain access and maintain exploitative situations.


If you saw the movie, what other scenarios did you notice? Would you like to know more about a certain scenario? Let us know in the comments.

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