Top 6 Misconceptions about Child Trafficking

There’s no doubt that to bring an end to child trafficking, communities must come together to work on prevention. To do this, communities need to be informed. There are a few key misconceptions that many people have about child trafficking:

Misconception 1: Child trafficking only happens in other countries.

Child trafficking is a crime involving the movement of a minor within a country or across borders to exploit them for capital gain through sexual exploitation (commercial sex or pornography). Child trafficking happens in nearly every urban and rural area of the United States, mainly involving U.S. citizens. In Texas alone, researchers estimated that there are 79,000 youth victims of sex trafficking.

Misconception 2: All victims are female, and all traffickers are male.

Most of the identified victims are female, but many experts agree that male victims are seriously undercounted. Currently, we know that more than half of child pornography is produced with male minors. Some reasons for the under-identification of male victims include the increased secrecy of the male commercial sex trade compared to the female commercial sex trade. In addition, male victims face increased shame and stigmatization compared to females, which makes many males reluctant to come forward. Although many traffickers are male, girls already under control of the trafficker are often used to recruit. In addition, Texas has had an increase in young Hispanic girls trafficked by adult Hispanic female family members who are often addicts.

Misconception 3: All trafficked minors remain with their trafficker against their will.

Although the scenario of a minor being kidnapped or forcibly taken happens, it is not very common. Often, the vulnerable minors that the trafficker recruits view the trafficker as a romantic partner or father figure. Many victims do not self-identify as victims. For many minors who are escaping issues such as violence, neglect, and abuse, being with the trafficker is viewed as a step up compared to their home life. Traffickers are masters of psychological manipulation and position themselves as someone who is looking out for the victim. For this reason, many victims attempt to protect and return to their trafficker.

Misconception 4: All traffickers use mainly physical violence to cause their victims to enter the commercial sex trade.

Many traffickers mainly use psychological manipulation to appeal to their victims’ emotional and economic needs. Intimidating and coercing a minor into trading sex through violence or threats, happens, but it is less common.

Misconception 5: All traffickers seek to hook their victims on drugs.

Many use mental and emotional manipulation over violence or drugs for control purposes. Many traffickers restrict drug use amongst the victims and avoid recruiting drug addicts because they believe addicts cannot be trusted. Traffickers may take drugs with the girls as part of the grooming process, but once the girls start working, many traffickers want the victims to be sober.

Misconception 6: All buyers are purposefully seeking out minors.

Child trafficking is embedded within the commercial sex industry. Most buyers are not intentionally seeking minors. Rather, most are responding to ads where victims are said to be 18 or older.

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