Human Trafficking Awareness Campaigns Are Feeding A Dangerous Myth

By Michael Hobbes: For Entire Post, Go Here…

Kids are not being smuggled through airports and no one is trying to kidnap you at the grocery store.

You see the posters in airports, bus stations and rest stops around the country. A child, always female, often white, sometimes bound. An alarming headline: “Someone in your state was just sold” or “Human trafficking: It could happen to anyone.” 

Underneath the picture is a worrying statistic, a list of warning signs, a hotline number or all three. And always, at the end, the same plea to travelers: If you see something, say something.

Over the last two decades, human trafficking has become one of the most prominent social issues in America. Airlines, hotels and ride-hailing companies train their employees on how to spot victims. Nonprofits enlist celebrities to spread awareness campaigns on social media. Last week, just after the close of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, President Trump held an anti-trafficking summit and created a White House position dedicated to the issue.

Whether from lawmakers, nonprofits or celebrities, nearly all of these efforts send the same message: Trafficking is everywhere, it’s getting worse and ordinary Americans have the power to stop it. 

There’s just one problem. None of the lawmakers or nonprofits behind these campaigns can provide any evidence that “raising awareness” of human trafficking is doing anything to address it. 

For years now, experts have pointed out that the reality of sex trafficking bears little resemblance to the sensationalized version depicted in public-awareness campaigns. Shoppers are not being snatched from grocery store parking lots. Victims are rarely moved against their will and seldom exhibit any of the “warning signs” that would make their abuse visible to members of the public. Despite the persistent myth that human trafficking “could happen to anyone,” most victims are undocumented, homeless, in foster care or otherwise marginalized. 

“Most sex trafficking happens to a relatively small group of high-risk young people,” said David Finkelhor, the director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. “We could do a lot more to prevent trafficking by addressing those vulnerabilities — like family abuse, neglect or foster care placement — directly.” 

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