May 19, 2016 / 12:02 PM / 2 years ago

Five myths color the crime of human trafficking

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Human trafficking can be found in any country, and its victims can be nearly anyone, experts say.

Here are five myths about trafficking:

MYTH 1: Human trafficking means sex trafficking.

Along with sex trafficking, forced labor is another type of human trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Victims can be found in such industries as sweatshops, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels and domestic service.

MYTH 2: Human trafficking and human smuggling are the same.

Trafficking is based on exploitation and control and does not require movement.

“You can traffic a person and never move them an inch,” said Grant Snyder, a trafficking expert with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Smuggling is based on movement and involves moving a person across a border, according to the DHS. Human smuggling can turn into trafficking if a smuggler uses force, fraud or coercion to hold people against their will or for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation.

MYTH 3: Victims will blame their traffickers.

Most victims of trafficking blame themselves, said Snyder. “Victims will say: ‘I wasn’t smart enough. Why did I go to that party with that person? Why did I trust that individual? Why did I run away?’,” he said.

MYTH 4: Human trafficking victims will seek help if they can.

Victims may fear violence or retribution. Some victims do not trust law enforcement or other authority, and some do not see themselves as victims, according to Washington, D.C.-based Polaris, which runs the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline.

“Often drugs or alcohol will inhibit a victim’s willingness to come forward. Many victims also don’t believe that coming forward will be fruitful,” said Melina Healey, a trafficking expert at the Child Law Policy and Legislation Clinic at Loyola University Chicago.

MYTH 5: Sex trafficking involves an exchange of money.

Sex trafficking can involve the exchange of any number of items such as drugs, alcohol, room and board or basic necessities, according to Healey.

“The exchange can be for anything of value and that’s particularly true in places where drugs are endemic,” she said.

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Alex Whiting; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

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