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Trafficking Truths

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding human trafficking. Hear from Rebecca Bender, CEO of The Rebecca Bender Initiative and founder of Elevate Academy as she shares part of her story as a sex trafficking survivor.

Trafficking Truth: By far the most pervasive myth about human trafficking is that it always – or often – involves kidnapping or otherwise physically forcing someone into a situation. In reality, most human traffickers use psychological means such as tricking, defrauding, manipulating, or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor.

Trafficking Truth: Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to get another person to provide labor or commercial sex. Worldwide, experts believe there are more situations of labor trafficking than of sex trafficking. However, there is a much wider awareness of sex trafficking in the United States than of labor trafficking.

Trafficking Truth: Polaris has worked on thousands of cases of trafficking involving foreign national survivors who are legally living and/or working in the United States. These include survivors of both sex and labor trafficking.

Trafficking Truth: Human trafficking cases have been reported and prosecuted in industries including restaurants, cleaning services, construction, factories, and more.

Trafficking Truth: One study estimates that as many as half of sex trafficking victims and survivors are male. Advocates believe that percentage may be even higher but that male victims are far less likely to be identified. LGBTQ boys and young men are seen as particularly vulnerable to trafficking.

Trafficking Truth: Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling, which involves illegal border crossings. In fact, the crime of human trafficking does not require any movement whatsoever. Survivors can be recruited and trafficked in their own hometowns, even their own homes.

Trafficking Truth: 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.

Trafficking Truth: Initial consent to commercial sex or a labor setting prior to acts of force, fraud, or coercion (or if the victim is a minor in a sex trafficking situation) is not relevant to the crime, nor is payment.

Trafficking Truth: That is sometimes the case. More often, however, people in trafficking situations stay for reasons that are more complicated. Some lack the basic necessities to physically get out – such as transportation or a safe place to live. Some are afraid for their safety. Some have been so effectively manipulated that they do not identify at that point as being under the control of another person.

Trafficking Truth: Labor trafficking occurs in the United States and in other developed countries but is reported at lower rates than sex trafficking.

Trafficking Truth: Many survivors have been trafficked by romantic partners, including spouses, and by family members, including parents.

RBI Trafficking Truths e-Course

This free e-course from The Rebecca Bender Initiative invites fifteen national experts to talk through all you need and want to know to fight human trafficking.

Get the E-Course

But, What about Wayfair?

We know that the baseless Wayfair conspiracy theory about child trafficking took root in 2020. Read Polaris Project's statement about how it impacted the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Read Polaris' Statement

Visit Our Online Learning Library

This Online Learning Library is a growing collection of resources to help on your journey toward becoming a well-informed ally so you can join us more effectively in the fight to end human trafficking.

Learning Library

Learn More

There is hardly anything more detrimental to a movement than an uninformed ally. Watch our Human Trafficking Foundations webinar that provides a foundational overview of human trafficking with an emphasis on sex and labor trafficking in Wisconsin.

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Report Human Trafficking

If you believe you are a victim of human trafficking or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, please contact the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.

Report a Tip. Get Help.