5 Harmful Myths about Human Trafficking

When it comes to human trafficking, it’s hard to separate myth from fact.

Human trafficking is complicated. It’s kept under wraps, overlooked, and often ignored. Few reliable studies exist about its prevalence. As a result, it’s often hard to separate myth from fact when trying to understand this horrific abuse of human rights.

Read on to see some myths about human trafficking dispelled, and during Human Trafficking Awareness Month, take the opportunity to learn, share – and take action. 

1) MYTH: Human trafficking only happens in countries far away from the United States.

FACT: Human trafficking occurs around the world, in the United States, and right here in New York City. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center received over 16,600 calls for help last year. At Sanctuary, we regularly serve survivors of sex trafficking and human trafficking from the five boroughs. Our clients include both immigrants and native New Yorkers.

2) MYTH: Only women are victims of human trafficking.

FACT: Anyone, regardless of gender, can be a victim of human trafficking. In fact, studies have indicated that 45% of victims of human trafficking are men and boys. Men and boys can be victims of both labor trafficking AND sex trafficking.

3) MYTH: Human trafficking requires physical force or restraint to be considered trafficking.

FACT: Traffickers can use many kinds of tactics to coerce victims, including threats to a victim’s family; exploiting a victim’s vulnerability, such as lack of immigration status; using psychological tactics, like shaming, mental abuse, and isolation; and using debt bondage against a victim.

4) MYTH: Human trafficking is a small, underground industry that doesn’t affect many people.

FACT: 20.9 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry. There are no reliable numbers on human trafficking victims in the United States, but the reality is pretty clear – this crime is widespread and affects millions of people around the world and at home.

5) MYTH: There is nothing I can do to end human trafficking.

FACT: Everyone can take action to end human trafficking. You can volunteer with Sanctuary, make a donation, or sign up to receive advocacy updates. You can also make smart decisions about how you spend your money and what you buy – check out slaveryfootprint.org to see how your consumer decisions might be supporting human trafficking, and what you can do to make change.

Photos and Highlights from the 2015 Abely Awards

We were proud to honor tireless advocates against gender violence.

Last week, members of New York’s legal, civic and anti-gender violence communities gathered to honor United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Judge Pamela K. Chen and Jennifer L. Kroman, Director of Pro Bono Services at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, at the Nineteenth Annual Abely Awards.

View photos from the event.

Co-hosted with Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Columbia Law School, The Abely Awards recognize individuals who make a difference in the lives of domestic violence and sex trafficking survivors.

This year’s honorees have each used their distinguished legal backgrounds to provide survivors of sex trafficking with opportunities to live their lives free from violence and control.

We were grateful to be joined by The Honorable Judith S. Kaye, retired New York judge and the first woman to occupy the State Judiciary’s highest office, who with Legal Director Dorchen Leidholdt presented the awards.

While US Attorney General Loretta Lynch could not attend the event, she accepted her award by video, recounting her experiences working with Sanctuary to prosecute traffickers during her time as US Attorney for the Easter District of New York. Watch her full video thanks:

We were also proud to honor Judge Pamela K. Chen, a federal district court judge in the Eastern District of New York, and a true pioneer in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.

We also honored Jennifer L. Kroman, Director of Pro Bono Practice at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, and a longtime Sanctuary supporter and Board Member. Jennifer leads Cleary’s award-winning pro bono practice and maintains an active docket representing survivors of sex trafficking in vacatur cases.

Since 1997, the Abely Awards have celebrated the life and legacy of Maryellen Abely, a pro bono attorney at Sanctuary for Families’ Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services.

An alumna of Columbia Law School, and an associate at Davis Polk, Ms. Abely was a tireless advocate for the rights of victims of domestic abuse and one of Sanctuary’s first pro bono attorneys. She died in 1995 after a long battle with cancer.

Learn more about the Abely Awards.