Myths and Realities

Myth:  “Trafficking doesn’t happen in the
United States!”

Reality:  Trafficking is happening right here, right now.  Since 2001, the Asian Anti-Trafficking Collaborative (AATC) has served over 100 victims of human trafficking, the majority of whom had been trafficked into the Greater Bay Area, since 2001.  According to the report, Freedom Denied: Forced Labor in California, released by the Berkeley Human Rights Center and Free the Slaves in February 2005, California alone has had over 57 forced labor operations in almost a dozen cities between 1998 and 2003 alone. 80% of the documented human trafficking cases in California occurred in San Diego,
Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Myth:  “Human trafficking is about prostitution.”

Reality: Human trafficking is not just about forced prostitution.  The victims that we have served have been trafficked and forced into situations involving domestic servitude, restaurant work, even teaching in public schools.  Under
U.S. federal law, human trafficking can include the recruitment, transfer, harboring, transportation or receipt of a person if it is for the purpose of enforced exploitation.  Human trafficking takes many forms and in every industry where a worker can be exploited and compelled through force, fraud, or coercion to work against his or her will, human trafficking is happening. 
  Myth:  “Trafficking only happens to impoverished women and girls.”
Reality: Trafficking victims are not just women and girls from impoverished regions of the world.  Men and boys can be trafficked.  Education level and socioeconomic class do not protect a person from being trafficked.  International trafficking routes are not one-way routes from impoverished regions to more developed regions – there is evidence of trafficking from the U.S. into
Mexico and abroad as well.  One of our trafficking clients was trafficked by his father’s girlfriend, and forced physically to clean homes and offices, even though he was only 13 years old.  Another client had a nursing degree and was also a homeowner and respected community leader in her home country.

Myth:  “Traffickers are members of organized crime rings.”

Reality:  Traffickers are not always members of organized crime syndicates.  Traffickers can be individuals, even from the same family or circle of relatives and friends as the victim.  Traffickers can be well-respected pillars of the community in the home country and in the
U.S.  Traffickers can be
U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, as well as immigrants. 

Myth: “If you haven’t been physically beaten or restrained, you haven’t been trafficked.” 

Reality:  Traffickers use a range of methods to compel obedience from the victim.  Physical injury or harm is not required for a person to be victimized.  Psychological coercion, including threats against a victim’s loved ones or threats to have the victim put in jail or deported, is a very effective tool of the trafficker.  More and more, AATC staff have seen the development of cultural coercion as a tool of traffickers, such as using the victim’s sense of familial obligation and duty to repay a debt to manipulate the victim.  Traffickers are savvy and can use a variety of techniques to control victims.  Many of our clients have expressed the same sentiment: Yes, I guess I could have physically walked out the door. Many times I wanted to escape. But the idea that I could actually exercise choice and leave? That was simply impossible.


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