The United Nations defines human trafficking as the induction by force, fraud, or coercion of a person to engage in the sex trade, or the harboring transportation or obtaining of a person for labor service (or organ removal).  However, for many of us our knowledge of human trafficking is limited to fictional accounts that start and end with Liam Neeson and his ‘‘particular set of skills’.

Though we may be captivated by the obstacles Liam would overcome to save his daughter, we expect a happy ending after Liam confronts the attackers and gets justice. However, the reality is this is a modern-day slave trade and the fight to end this global epidemic isn’t going to be won by the time the credits run. So how can we fight back?

Our first step is letting go of the myths and misconceptions we may have that blind us and prevent us from recognizing potential victims and influencing change. The first of which is the belief that human trafficking is a thing of the past when it is very much alive and growing into a multi-million-dollar industry.

Many Americans view human trafficking as an “over there” issue, originating and operating in other countries, a problem for another nation, unless it crosses our borders. The truth is, anyone can be a victim of trafficking, anywhere. In fact, the United States is one of the largest avenues for victims with an annual average of 20,000-50,000 people trafficked, many of which never leave the country.

We also make the incorrect assumption that those who fall victim to this exploitation are exclusively poor, uneducated, or living in areas of heightened crime (i.e., cities and urban areas).  This thinking can lead to a false sense of safety among the affluent or those living in suburban and rural areas.  Traffickers do not discriminate and will target any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers target their victims using a variety of tools focusing on populace groups like women, children, the undocumented and the indebted.  Each group offering its own set of vulnerabilities to groom their victims.  With the addition of social media and the Internet, there is no “safe” area from these individuals. Even those with a stable home life can be defrauded by those who make promises of love, marriage, or money to lull people into their traps and away from the friends/families.

Another misconception is that human trafficking is for the exclusive purpose of the sex trade.   Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is the prevalent form of traffic, but it’s only one.  Forced labor is nearly as widespread. People are “recruited” via methods of deception and promises for gainful employment, only to spend their days in servitude in labor intensive jobs without end. Theft, drugs, and counterfeiting are among the other illegal acts these victims are forced to take part. Some are even subject to impossible quotas and sever punishment should they fail to meet these ever-changing standards. This debt only furthers their time indebted and enslaved by those benefiting from their victimization.

Perhaps one of the worst myths is the belief that human trafficking does not involve you. As a global citizen you are affected. Those who are trafficked suffer many physical and emotional wounds. Left alone, the influx of unpaid and child labor affects the economy, criminal activity affects safety and property value, and sex workers (who do not receive treatment) affect the health of their surrounding communities.   The hard truth is no one is unaffected.

To learn more about human trafficking, visit The Blue Campaign. If you report suspected human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “help to BeFree (233733).

While I cannot provide you with details, Mirrored Images Boudoir has been asked to participate in the fight to end human trafficking.  We’re honored to be part of this mission.