Myths and Misconceptions about Child Sex Trafficking: What You Need to Know
When people hear of things like child trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, domestic minor sex trafficking, prostitution of children, or any other related term, many of them often imagine a huge undercover operation. You might also start picturing a container load of abducted girls arriving at the docks at night.
Contrary to these notions, child sex trafficking happens right in plain sight, in front of all of us. In fact, you may not even recognize a trafficking situation if you see one, unless you know the signs. And yes, there are signs. You might also think that victims of these crimes will readily cry out for help at every opportunity.
Unfortunately, that is, most of the time, not the case. Many of them are too lost in the pit of low self-esteem and worthlessness even to muster enough courage to seek help. Perhaps, the only thing right about these popular misconceptions/assumptions is that child trafficking is a huge crime. Research shows that the human trafficking industry is a lucrative and booming one. It is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world, generating about $150.2 billion globally.
Myths, Misconceptions, and Facts
Myth 1: Child sex trafficking does not occur in the United States. It only affects poor countries
Fact: Child sex trafficking happens in every country in the world. There’s hardly any part of the world where human beings have not been bought or sold — and it occurs right here in the crossroads of America. It’s happening in our cities, suburbs, and towns — don’t be surprised if you notice it in your own community!
Myth 2: Child sex trafficking victims are only foreign-born nationals and immigrants
Fact: The reality is that anyone — black, white, Hispanic, poor, rich, citizens, and even foreigners — can fall prey to traffickers. The socio-economic group that a child belongs to plays no part in their being a victim.
Myth 3: Traffickers only target victims they don’t know
Fact: While traffickers often reach out to people they do not know, they usually take time to build trust with their victims, right before they switch to exploiting them. But in most cases, traffickers are close folks, family members, friends, and even romantic partners.
Myth 4: Child traffickers only target girls
Fact: Studies show that boys are just as vulnerable as girls, although they form a lesser portion of trafficked children in the U.S. But victims' profiles differ according to the form of exploitation. While girls are mostly reported as victims of forced marriages and sexual exploitation, such as DMST and child prostitution, boys are often victims of forced labor.
Myth 5: Underage sex workers operate on their free will
Fact: There is no such thing as child prostitution. The law maintains that anyone under the age of 18 and is involved in commercial sex work is a victim of child exploitation. Traffickers often use a tactic known as psychological kidnapping to keep their victims under control.
In most cases, these children do not have a better option or do not see a better option. Many are too ashamed or broken to open up or go back to their families and friends. Some even think their traffickers love them, while several others are involved in the act for drugs, money, or shelter.
Myth 6: Child trafficking involves traveling, transporting, and smuggling of children across borders
Actually, human trafficking and human smuggling are two different things. Trafficking is mainly “exploitation-based” and hardly involves the movement of children across borders. Today, through grooming, traffickers nurture their victims and lure them into sex trafficking right from their homes. In the U.S., child trafficking happens in hotels, bars, bus stops, and online.
Human smuggling, on the other hand, does involve the movement of persons across borders in violation of immigration laws, but with the consent of the person being moved. However, human smuggling becomes human trafficking when the smuggler engages in force, compulsion, and other forms of manipulation to move the victim to make a profit off them.
Myth 7: Children must be forced or coerced into sexual activities to be considered victims of child sex trafficking
Fact: Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 who is made to engage in commercial sex acts is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether the minor is forced or not.
Myth 8: All child trafficking cases involves sex or prostitution
Fact: On the contrary, trafficking generally takes other forms, such as forced marriages, involuntary domestic servitude, debt bondage, forced labor, organ trafficking, and sex trafficking or child prostitution.
What Can You Do if You Learn of a Child Trafficking Situation Near You?
Now that you understand what child trafficking is better, you might be wondering what you can do to help. That’s great! If you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-800-373-7888. They are available 24 hours every day. Also check out our blog on what you can do when you notice sex trafficking happening around you for more tips.
You Can Also Join Forces With Us at the Mission Haven
The Mission Haven is a non-government, charity-funded organization focused on providing a comprehensive and transformational Haven of Healing for victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. We believe that every single DMST or child sex trafficking survivor still has a chance at life at its best.
Our goal at The Mission Haven is to provide child sex trafficking survivors with the support they need to start over. With your generous donations and support, we can continue to provide a truly safe haven of hope and healing equipped with essential resources to lift victims and survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. To give, volunteer, or become a partner, feel free to contact us today.