Recognizing Sex Trafficking

Anyone selling sex who is under 18 is legally a trafficking victim. There are a number of racial myths and stereotypes associated with sex trafficking. While available evidence shows that racial minorities are more likely to be victims of sex trafficking, there is no truth behind the stereotype that certain races of men are more likely to be traffickers than men of other races.

Myth

Only women and girls can be victims and survivors of sex trafficking.

Reality
Men and boys are also victimized by sex traffickers. LGBTQ boys and young men are seen as particularly vulnerable to trafficking.

Myth

All commercial sex is human trafficking.

Reality
All commercial sex involving a minor is legally considered human trafficking. Commercial sex involving an adult is human trafficking if the person providing commercial sex is doing so against his or her will as a result of force, fraud or coercion.

Myth

People in active trafficking situations always want help getting out.

 

Reality
Every trafficking situation is unique and self-identification as a trafficking victim or survivor happens along a continuum. Fear, isolation, guilt, shame, misplaced loyalty and expert manipulation are among the many factors that may keep a person from seeking help or identifying as a victim even if they are, in fact, being actively trafficked.

Someone you know may be in a sex trafficking situation if:

  • They want to stop participating in selling or trading sex but feel scared or unable to leave
  • They disclose that they were reluctant to engage in selling sex but that someone pressured them into it
  • They live where they work or are transported by guards between home and workplace
  • They are children who live with or are supported by or dependent on a family member with a substance abuse problem or who is abusive in other ways
  • They have a pimp or manager in the sex trade
  • They work in an industry where it may be common to be pressured into performing sex acts for money, such as a strip club, illicit cantina, go-go bar, or illicit massage business
  • They have an older, or simply controlling parent, guardian, romantic partner or “sponsor” who will not allow you to meet or speak with the person alone or monitors their movements, spending and/or communications

Child Sex Trafficking

In complex and frightening times, it’s natural that the world seems like a more dangerous place for our children than ever before. Understanding the realities of child sex trafficking will help you to not only keep your own children safe, but to become an effective advocate for the safety of all children and families in your community. 

Love and Trafficking

In the wrong hands, love is a powerful weapon of exploitation. Read survivors’ stories and learn the difference between what love isn’t and what trafficking is. Take the pledge to share what you’ve learned and help those who are vulnerable.

Additional Resources

Need help? Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.