When you hear the words ‘sex trafficking’, what comes to mind? Do you imagine a kidnapping in a white van or the storyline of an overplayed action movie? Not everything we see online and in the movies is an accurate representation of what is actually going on. Let’s find out how to debunk some of the most common myths surrounding sex trafficking.
With the media and social networking platforms all accessible at our fingertips, it can be easy to fall subject to inaccurate information and misconceptions surrounding sex trafficking. While those mediums can be a beneficial resource for sharing educational information and statistics, it also gives a platform for the spread of misinformation and myths. Since it is effortless for anyone to post whatever they want online, sometimes people will repost and share what they may think to be “informational” posts when in reality could be damaging misconceptions. Instead of continuing the spread of misconceptions, let our team at Bridging Freedom help decipher what is reality vs myth for you.
*It is important to note that not all information online is accurate. When looking for reliable resources, a good rule of thumb is to use government websites, non-profits, or specialized services. Our goal is to provide our Tampa Bay community with honest and accurate facts surrounding sex trafficking.
Myth: Only Happens to Women and Children
While the statistics show that many human trafficking and sex trafficking cases tend to have women and children, victims, that is not always the case. The male population is also subject to trafficking despite the misconception. Unfortunately, it is difficult to gather accurate statistics surrounding male cases since many sexual assault cases go unreported amongst male populations.
As for the cases that have been reported, we know that trafficking is not limited to only women and children but anybody. If it is taught that it only can happen to women and children, this assumption can create a variety of problems for the male population. For starters, it can silence male victims from speaking out and getting help. It can also create a false sense of security for the male population’s overall safety. While yes, statistically women and children have more cases on paper, the male population is also being directly affected by trafficking.
Myth: Sex Trafficking Rarely Happens in Florida.
Unfortunately, many people have a narrow-minded view of where sex trafficking happens by limiting its boundaries outside of the United States. While we would like to imagine it wouldn’t happen in your own country let alone your own state, it would be ignorant thinking. In the United States, the sex trafficking “industry” is at an all-time high. It has been ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking incidents with an estimated 199,000 cases annually.
As for Florida, the state is ranked third in the nation for reported cases. Specifically in Tampa Bay, the metropolitan area has been a hot spot for sex trafficking in recent years. Since the Tampa Bay area has a large tourism industry and adult entertainment industry, it has opened up and attracted many traffickers to the city. Tampa has been ranked as the 12th worst city in the United States for human trafficking.
Consequently, as a community, we need to recognize the problem and continue to support local efforts to combat sex trafficking. Take a look at this YouTube video showing how Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrested 125 individuals involved in a recent human trafficking sting.
Myth: All Traffickers are Men
Even though most movies, books, and shows depict a trafficker as an older man driving a white van, that is not true at all. There is no specific type limited to traffickers since it can be anybody. It is a dangerous narrative to teach that only men are capable of trafficking. Not only is it false, but it can create a false sense of safety with one gender versus the other when it is merely a broad generalization.
Broad generalizations like this open up opportunities for people to blindly trust or mistrust someone because of their gender. Instead of assuming that traffickers can only be men, be aware and cautious of anybody that is portraying suspicious, persistent, or grooming-like behavior–regardless of gender. Check out this TEDx Talk addressing the misconceptions about sex trafficking and gender.
Myth: Only Occurs in Poor Communities
Trafficking can happen anywhere and to anyone. Sure, there are certain areas that are statistically higher in sex trafficking cases, but that is not subject to socioeconomic status. There tends to be many factors that come into play when there are areas that statistically have higher cases.
Impoverished communities have a disadvantage in combatting sex trafficking due to limited resources but it does not mean it only occurs there. This data point only means that these communities are more vulnerable. From metropolitan areas to higher-income communities, sex trafficking is all around. Watch this short YouTube video to learn more about this myth.
Myth: Traffickers Target Strangers
It is common for people to think that traffickers are only targeting random strangers. In reality, many traffickers are targeting people that they have observed / stalked or even someone familiar like a friend, partner, or family member. Sadly, when a victim knows their trafficker, they may have a harder time speaking out due to manipulation, adoration, fear, or out of survival.
Traffickers play mind games and use manipulation tactics to get their victims to trust and comply with their needs. A victim may feel that nobody will believe them or that they consented or allowed it to happen – when that is completely false. That is why it is important to debunk the myths. Take a look at a clip from FOX news on how traffickers are not always strangers.
What Can You Do?
Now that we have debunked some of the most common myths surrounding sex trafficking, what is next? Follow along to find out how you can implement factual education, community support, and share it online!
- Educate. With all these misconceptions circulating online, it is important to combat any misinformation starting in your home. It is important to educate yourself, your family, and your friends on the realities of sex trafficking. The more we talk about it in our homes, the more we can protect those around us.
- Support. For those who are victims of sex trafficking, it is important to be able to provide a safe and open space for them. Whether this looks like offering emotional support to a victim, connecting a friend to sex trafficking victim resources, or donating to a local non-profit, we can all work on providing extra support to those who may need it. Sometimes the best support you can provide is simply by listening.
- Share. One of the best ways to help stop the spread of misinformation is to share the truth online. If you are active on social media, you can find reliable and credible infographics or posts to share with your followers online. Many non-profit organizations, such as Bridging Freedom, will run awareness campaigns on social media platforms that invite followers to share posts. One simple way that you can help is by simply sharing this blog post on your Facebook page.
- Donate. By making a one-time or recurring monthly donation to Bridging Freedom you are helping us to be a better ambassador for raising awareness of this important issue across the Tampa Bay metro area. If you are looking for ways to give, check out Bridging Freedom’s How to Help page here.
- Myths and Misconceptions | Homeland Security (dhs.gov)
- Sex Trafficking | National Human Trafficking Hotline
- By the numbers: Florida had third-highest human trafficking rate in 2019 | WFLA
- Child and human trafficking safe home in Florida (bridgingfreedom.org)
Bridging Freedom | Restoring Stolen Childhoods
Based in Tampa, Florida, our experienced team serves as an advocate for restoring stolen childhoods. At Bridging Freedom, we combat domestic minor sex trafficking through our restoration programs for rescued victims by providing a therapeutic safe homes for victims. Aside from providing services for victims, Bridging Freedom aims to educate the community about the horrors going on behind closed doors. Through partnerships with Clearwater / Tampa Bay Area Task Force on Human Trafficking, Tampa Bay FBI Innocence Lost Initiative, and St. Petersburg College Center for Human Trafficking Awareness, Bridging Freedom can help provide victims with a safe place and connect them to necessary resources. In order to allow us to continue doing what we do, Bridging Freedom relies on the generosity and collaboration of our community of supporters. If you would like to be a part of our group of supporters, you can donate at the page here.