Myth: There is a high risk of being kidnapped by a stranger or abducted in a public space to be trafficked for sex.

Reality: This is very unlikely. Traffickers target people they know because abusers rely on tactics such as emotional and psychological manipulation to exploit the trust built on their relationship. Romantic partners, spouses, friends, and family members are routinely trafficked by partners, parents, and others in their social network.

Traffickers also depend on incredible secrecy to avoid being caught. Abducting a stranger may carry more risks than reward, as missing persons reports and investigations are likely. The industry utilizes existing relationships to make calculated determinations in selecting victims whose absences will likely go unnoticed.

Myth: A victim must be held, chained up, or otherwise held against their will.

Reality: This is not as common as movies and pop culture have led us to believe. In reality, victims are trapped in commercial sex trafficking for many complex reasons. Some traffickers hold power over their victims by providing necessities like food, shelter, or transportation that make it difficult to leave. Some create “debts” owed to them by their victims through forced and often arbitrary “fees,” and others, for example, create a debt by intentionally leading the victim to drug addiction. In this way, a victim becomes beholden to their abusers for their next fix or because they owe the trafficker some amount of money for previously consumed drugs.

Many victims live in their own homes– even with their parents and families. A trafficker can still trap their victim through instilling real fear for a victim’s safety. Some victims have no other opportunity for income or see no way out. And many victims are so heavily manipulated that they do not perceive the relationship with their trafficker to be controlling or otherwise exploitative.

Men and boys cannot become trafficked.

Reality: Boys and men are also vulnerable and become victimized by sex trafficking. Young boys and members of the LGBTQIA+ community are more susceptible to targeting. The higher rates at girls women are targeted at compared to boys and men does not minimize or erase the trauma and abuse faced by boys.

This is a harmful myth to hold onto. Notions such as these lead to men feeling ashamed of the sexual violence they experience for fear of emasculation or ridicule by others.

Sex trafficking occurs overseas, and victims are brought into the United States from foreign countries to be sold.

Reality: People are bought and sold for sex in the United States just as similarly as people in most other countries. Victims also are not exclusively shipped into the U.S. This is a problem right here at home, within U.S. borders, targeting and abusing its own citizens as well. The issue of trafficking is not an “us verses them” problem. It is a deeply pervasive and present problem facing the world as a whole.