At STOP THE TRAFFIK we work to raise awareness of human trafficking, because this is one of the best ways to protect those who are targeted by human traffickers. By learning about the nature of human trafficking, we can make it harder for human traffickers to hide their crimes and empower communities to recognise and disrupt the tactics of human traffickers.
Since knowledge is one of our main tools for disrupting the activities of traffickers, misconceptions about the nature of human trafficking can be harmful to the fight against the buying and selling of people. Confusions about what trafficking is, how it can take place, or what it looks like mean that spotting and preventing trafficking in communities is all the more difficult.
So, here are 5 of the biggest myths about human trafficking and the actual truths they conceal.
MYTH 1: Human trafficking always takes place in illegal industries
It’s true that some cases of human trafficking take place within illegal industries. Children or teenagers are forced to work in cannabis ‘factories’ set up in residential premises. , forced into sex work or sometimes even bought and sold for organ harvesting.
But one of the big problems is that human trafficking is part of supply chains of companies selling everyday products like tea, chocolate and clothes. People are made to work in terrible conditions, and not given the pay that they were told they would receive. Big companies often don’t even know where the materials products come from – but it is their responsibility to know and to make sure their products aren’t coming from forced labor. STOP THE TRAFFIK campaigns for companies to root out human trafficking in their supply chains.
MYTH2: People who are being trafficked will always try to seek help
Human traffickers often use psychological means of control over those they are trafficking – such threats and deception. The trafficker might threaten to harm a person’s family if he escapes, or may make promises about the pay the person will receive.
This means that people who are being trafficked may not seek help even if they are in public places or situations where people could be made aware of their circumstances. They may be afraid of the consequences if they do, or they may be getting deceived by human traffickers. If you suspect someone is being trafficked, the fact that they aren’t trying to get help doesn’t mean that they are okay.
MYTH 3: People who are trafficked are always taken by force
Traffickers often prey on people who are already in vulnerable situations. Their biggest tools are deception and psychological manipulation, which means they often don’t use force to take away peoples’ freedom.
In Tamil Nadu, India, traffickers visit poor and marginalized communities to persuade parents to sign up their daughters for employment in textiles factories. They will give false promises about the hours, wages and working conditions – and will even show parents pictures of modern, clean buildings as examples of where their daughters will be working. Given these promises, the parents willingly send their daughters away to the factories. But the reality is that the girls sent off with the traffickers will be forced to work long hours in hazardous conditions, and most do not even receive the pay they were promised.
MYTH 4: Statistics on trafficking are accurate
Trafficking is a criminal industry based on secrecy – which means that data is difficult to collect and concrete statistics about the scale of human trafficking are hard to come by. The figures quoted by many news sources, even if presented as hard facts, are often just estimates made by experts based on limited number of human trafficking cases that have been detected.
At STOP THE TRAFFIK we use the most credible and frequently quoted statistics, but we always make sure to emphasise that these are just estimates.
MYTH 5: Traffickers only target those in poorer communities
Although some forms of trafficking are more prevalent in poor and rural communities, traffickers can operate anywhere, in any country and in any community. Just because a person is from a developed country or a relatively affluent situation doesn’t mean that they are not at risk from traffickers’ deception and manipulation.
STOP THE TRAFFIK has worked with Sophie Hayes – a woman from the UK who is a survivor of human trafficking and who has now written a book about her experiences set up a foundation to combat sex trafficking and exploitation. Sophie’s situation was very different from living in poverty or in a small rural village – and her story shows that anyone could be targeted by traffickers.