Journalism

Do traffickers kidnap their victims? The myths and realities of human trafficking

This article was originally published by Montgomery Advertiser, in partnership with The Fuller Project, on February 25th, 2019, by Advertiser Reporter Melissa Brown.

The Alabama Human Trafficking Summit in Montgomery, Ala., on Friday February 8, 2019. (Photo: Mickey Welsh / Advertiser)

The stories persist, from the president of the United States to posts on neighborhood watch groups.

Women are “tied up, they’re bound, duct tape put around their faces,” said President Donald Trump. In Montgomery, a woman posts in a local crime Facebook group that two men, waiting by a van, want to stalk and grab women getting out of their vehicles.

As awareness and understanding around human trafficking grows, so do its myths, filtered and fertilized through social media and misunderstandings.

More: ‘The ones nobody misses’: Scope of human trafficking in Alabama wider than reported, experts say

But experts say these stories — young girls snatched from their mothers in broad daylight, stalked in crowded supermarkets and kidnapped across the U.S. border— aren’t true.

And worse, spreading them can hurt, not help, efforts to dismantle human trafficking.

Myth: Human trafficking always means sex trafficking

Reality: Though sex trafficking is more highly reported, labor trafficking is also a real and ongoing issue.

Alabama advocates say labor trafficking is even harder to quantify than sex trafficking, as victims can be hard to identify and reluctant to speak to authorities. According to data provided by the Alabama Fusion Center, labor trafficking most often occurs in the restaurant/food/hospitality industries, as well as in chicken and fish processing plants. The construction industry, traveling carnivals, “peddling rings” and other traveling sales ventures are also considered top venues for labor trafficking.

Myth: Sex trafficking is another term for prostitution

Reality: Prostitution, though illegal in the majority of the U.S., involves a consensual agreement. Sex trafficking is not consensual. 

Prostitution, which is legal and regulated in parts of Nevada and in countries such as the Netherlands, involves a consensual agreement between a sex worker and client. Trafficking victims, on the other hand, have been forced, coerced or deceived by traffickers, or pulled into prostitution while a minor. A person who originally consented to commercial sex work could become victim to human trafficking if they are later forced or coerced into nonconsensual acts.

Read article here.

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