This is just one of many misconceptions associated with the problem of human trafficking.  Several weeks ago, The New York Times reported that eight people were indicted in Brooklyn, NY on charges that include sex trafficking or promoting prostitution of women and girls as young as 15 years of age.  So it is happening here under our noses; a simple Google search reveals similar activities all around the country, not just in our biggest city.

In fact, estimates put the number of American kids under the age of 18 who are victimized by child prostitution at anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000.  This is not just prostitution – it’s human trafficking on a grand scale… domestic minor sex trafficking to be exact.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof nailed it in a recent column when he wrote: “Human trafficking tends to get ignored because it is an indelicate, sordid topic, with troubled victims who don’t make great poster children for family values. Indeed, many of the victims are rebellious teenage girls — often runaways — who have been in trouble with their parents and the law, and at times they think they love their pimps.”

Our domestic problems mirror global problems.  After drug dealing, the “trafficking of humans” is tied with arms dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world, with an estimated 17,000 trafficked people arriving on our shores every year.

And it’s all too easy for all of us to just turn our heads away from the problem.

A valuable first step in dealing with human trafficking is dealing with the myths associated with human trafficking.

  • Victims of trafficking are all foreign born. Not true.  Since 2006, the “Innocence Lost National Initiative,” collaboration between the FBI, the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has rescued 900 U.S. children trafficked into prostitution.
  • Human trafficking is just another term for the sex trafficking.  Not true.  According to a recent report from the US Department of State, three-quarters of identified foreign adult trafficking victims were trafficked for forced labor.
  • Existing laws are enough to address the problem of human trafficking.  They aren’t.  Given the state of existing laws and resources to combat trafficking globally, it is estimated that only one person is convicted of trafficking for every 800 trafficking victims.  Part of the reason for a lack of complete data on human trafficking can be attributed to a lack of anti-trafficking legislation and/or legislation that is narrow in scope.
  • If trafficked individuals were truly victims they would just walk away.  That’s hard to do.  Traffickers use threats of violence to trap their victims and often convince them that seeking help from local law enforcement will result in incarceration.

Generating awareness of the problem of human trafficking and educating the public on how it can be prevented has been an important initiative for various Junior Leagues around the country for the past several years.  Only recently has the issue become a topic of interest in the media and state politicians on how to solve this growing problem in their communities.

Welcome to the fight.