Misconception #1: Victims of human trafficking will immediately ask for help or assistance and will self-identify as a victim of a crime.
From an outside perspective, it only makes sense. If you find yourself in a situation where your freedom is restricted, your movements monitored, and your labor is exploited, wouldn’t you try to get out of that situation as fast as possible?
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Many victims of human trafficking or labor exploitation do not identify themselves as victims at all. They may distrust police or other law enforcement figures. Their traffickers may have instilled in them a deep sense of shame and self-blame. This makes it psychologically difficult, if not impossible, for some victims to reach out unaided.
Additionally, traffickers may have control of their victims’ passports, money, phones, or other communication channels, which further restricts the victims’ ability to get help.
Misconception #2: If the trafficked person consented to be in their initial situation, then it cannot be human trafficking because they “knew better.”
Not only is this an oversimplification of the complex nature of trafficking, but it also it risks dismissing people in need as somehow “deserving” of exploitation and enslavement.
Initial consent to either commercial sex work or labor means nothing once a trafficker introduces force, fraud, or coercion to keep someone in that situation. Also, any form of payment (which is usually retained by the trafficker in any case) does not make it any less exploitative.
Misconception #3: There’s nothing the average people can do.
The trafficking industry is just that: an industry. It brings in billions of dollars worldwide for those willing to abuse and exploit their fellow human beings. Fortunately, even average people have the power to disrupt the channels traffickers need to stay in business. Here are a few tips to start thinking like an abolitionist:
- Be aware. If you see something concerning, say something. You can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline line 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888.
- Seek out and join an anti-trafficking organization in your community. The Human Trafficking Hotline’s Referral Directory is an excellent resource for connecting with organizations near you.
- Know your “slavery footprint” by knowing what goods you buy that may be produced by slave labor. Begin a dialogue with the companies that manufacture those goods, making them aware of the true cost of their products. You can find a helpful guide at slaveryfootprint.org.
Research and article courtesy of Judith Munson.