Myths and Facts

MYTH: Sex Trafficking must involve some form of travel between states or borders.

FACT: The definition of trafficking does not require transportation, although travel may be involved in the crime. Sex trafficking is more accurately described as “compelled service” where an individual will is induced by force, fraud, or coercion.

MYTH: Sex trafficking only happens to girls.

FACT: Anyone can be a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of race, class, gender, ability, or sexual orientation. Traffickers choose their victims based on vulnerability.

MYTH: Girls and boys who are trafficked were often already extremely sexually active, so they aren’t being exploited. They are doing it to themselves.

FACT: Anyone of any gender can be trafficked, regardless of their sexual activity or reputation. Sex trafficking involves a trafficker (pimp) who is exploiting someone for profit using force, fraud, or coercion. In the case of commercial sexual exploitation, there may not be a trafficker/pimp involved; what is often referred to as “survival sex” of minors is really commercial sexual exploitation.

MYTH: If a teen (under 18) says that they wanted to sell their body, it’s really on them. They did it.

FACT: No one under 18 can legally be held responsible for being bought for commercial sex, even if they say they wanted or needed to sell sex. Even if they do give consent, consent to provide sex is not legally relevant for commercial sex involving minors. Nor is it relevant when there is force, fraud, or coercion, for victims of any age. Here is a state-by-state guide, so you can learn about your state’s laws. Under federal law, a person under age 18 cannot legally consent to being bought for sex, so all minors bought or traded for sex are considered victims of commercial sexual exploitation or sex trafficking. 

MYTH: There must be physical restraint or physical force involved to be considered a trafficking situation.

FACT: The legal definition of trafficking does not require physical restraint, bodily harm, or physical force. Psychological means of control, such as threats or abuse of the legal process are sufficient elements of the crime.

MYTH: Victims of trafficking will immediately ask for help or assistance and will identify as victims of crime.

FACT: No. Most survivors do not see their situation as exploitation and do not immediately ask for help. They often feel scared and/or blameworthy. We must meet them where they are, without judgement. Offer help and time to speak.