THE BLOG
01/18/2016 04:55 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2017

Five Harmful Myths About Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is complicated. It's kept under wraps, overlooked, and often ignored. Few reliable studies exist about its prevalence. As a result, it's often hard to separate myth from fact when trying to understand this horrific abuse of human rights.

As we mark Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January, it's important to dispel some often-repeated myths about trafficking

MYTH #1: Human trafficking only happens in countries far away from the United States.

FACT: Human trafficking occurs around the world, in the United States, and right here in New York City. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center received over 16,600 calls for help last year. At Sanctuary for Families, we serve survivors of sex trafficking and human trafficking from the five boroughs. Our clients include both immigrants and native New Yorkers.

MYTH #2: Only women are victims of human trafficking.

FACT: Anyone, regardless of gender, can be a victim of human trafficking. In fact, studies have indicated that 45% of victims of human trafficking are men and boys. Men and boys can be victims of both labor trafficking AND sex trafficking.

MYTH #3: Human trafficking requires physical force or restraint to be considered trafficking.

FACT: Traffickers can use many kinds of tactics to coerce victims, including threats to a victim's family; exploiting a victim's vulnerability, such as lack of immigration status; using psychological tactics, like shaming, mental abuse, and isolation; and using debt bondage against a victim.

MYTH #4: Human trafficking is a small, underground industry that doesn't affect many people.

FACT: 20.9 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry. There are no reliable numbers on human trafficking victims in the United States, but the reality is pretty clear - this crime is widespread and affects millions of people around the world and at home.

MYTH #5: There is nothing I can do to end human trafficking.

FACT: Everyone can take action to end human trafficking. You can volunteer with an anti-trafficking organization; you can make a donation; you can learn about the issue by signing up to receive news updates; or even provide pro bono legal services. You can also make smart decisions about how you spend your money and what you buy. The website slaveryfootprint.org shows you how your consumer decisions might be supporting human trafficking, and what you can do to make change.

Human trafficking is all too real and more pervasive than most people understand. Each of us has a role to play in combatting this lucrative criminal enterprise. Learn. Share. Take Action. Working together we can get another step closer to a world where this modern-day slavery is vanquished.