Myths & Facts: The Who and Where of Human Trafficking

Misconceptions about human trafficking are as widespread and pervasive as the problem itself. While not an exhaustive list, here are three of the most persistent myths, as well as the realities behind them.

Myth #1: All victims conform to a standard profile.

When you hear the words “human trafficking victim,” what’s the first thing you think of? For most people, it’s probably an at-risk teenage girl trapped in the sex trade. While that is a group targeted by traffickers, however, there is no “one size fits all” profile for victims.

Other common misconceptions about victim demographics include the following:

  • Myth: Victims are always impoverished.
  • Reality: They come from a wide variety of economic backgrounds.
  • Myth: Only young people are at risk.
  • Reality: Traffickers prey on victims of all ages.
  • Myth: Traffickers always target minorities.
  • Reality: Victims represent a wide range of ethnicities and nationalities.
  • Myth: The average person will never encounter a victim.
  • Reality: Many traffickers are able to hide their victims in plain sight. Look carefully! You may find those affected by human trafficking sitting next to your child in school, on the bus, or clearing your table at a restaurant.
Myth #2: Human trafficking primarily supports sex work.

Though most commonly associated with sex work, human trafficking feeds multiple industries and professions.

  • Hospitality
  • Agriculture
  • Beauty salons
  • Manufacturing
  • Domestic service
  • Restaurants
Myth #3: Trafficking always happens “somewhere else.”

Those unfamiliar with human trafficking may assume that traffickers always smuggle their victims into the U.S. from another country. In reality, many trafficking operations make use of complex transportation networks within the U.S., and some victims may never cross an international border. Furthermore, this isn’t just an urban issue. Small towns often serve as recruiting grounds, way stations, or as the final destination of trafficked persons—or some tragic combination of all three. Additionally, traffickers may take advantage of limited law enforcement resources in small towns to run their operations.


January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Throughout the month, Elite Learning will be taking an in-depth look at these issues. Follow our blog series for resources, tips, and knowledge you need to make a difference in your profession.

Research and article courtesy of Judith Munson.



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