Common Myths of Human Trafficking

December 15, 2023 | by: Cesar J Segura
Common Myths of Human Trafficking

As many of you may know, January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In preparation of this, we will explore an overview of some common myths surrounding human trafficking in our country. First, let’s define human trafficking; the US Department of Justice codifies human trafficking as “a crime that involves compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts. Coercion can be subtle or overt, physical, or psychological. Exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking, regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion was used.”

Myth 1: Human Trafficking only involved Sex Trafficking. Sex trafficking is the most spoken about type of trafficking. Though there are often higher reports of sex trafficking, both labor and sex trafficking are seen across the country.
Myth 2: All sex workers are victims of human trafficking. False, not all sex work is considered trafficking. Only that of an adult who is acting under force, fraud, or coercion. One exception to this rule is with minors, all commercial sex work is considered human trafficking for anyone under the age of 18.
Myth 3: Human trafficking victims are taken from their homes and trafficked. This is often a widely believed myth. However, many trafficking victims return home to their families at night. Likewise, many are trafficked from their own homes whether it be digitally (such as digital sexual extortion) or by their own family members. Though some trafficking victims are taken from their home, this is less often the case.
Myth 4: Human trafficking does not happen in the United States. False! Over 16,000 victims of human trafficking were referred to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2021.
Myth 5: People who are trafficked cannot physically leave their trafficker. This is also INCORRECT! Often, traffickers do not have 24 control or supervision over people in a trafficking situation. However, things are usually not as black and white as “just leaving”. Traffickers often use a variety of methods to keep control of their victims including limiting their access to other people, holding identification and other important documents hostage, and threatening violence against a person or their families.
Myth 6: Only females can be sex trafficked. False, males can be trafficked can be trafficked at rates like that of females. Likewise, boys who identify as part of the LGBTQ2S+ community are often at high risk of being trafficked.
Myth 7: People victimized by trafficking are often in high-risk situations. The truth is trafficking can happen anywhere to anyone. Trafficking is a crime that is not particular about age, socio-economic background, or location. Though certain populations may be at higher risk of being trafficked, everyone is at risk.

Though there are many myths that can be associated with human trafficking, the above encompass many of the ones we hear often. Though television and the media play a big role in these perceptions, it is important to remember that trafficking can exist all around us and may not look the same as we see on TV. To learn more or make a report, visit:


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This website was produced by the Cahuilla Consortium under grant award #2019-VO-GX-0010, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this website are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.