For over 21 years, Shared Hope International has been dedicated to preventing the conditions that foster child sex trafficking, restoring and empowering survivors, bringing justice to vulnerable youth, and spreading the truth about domestic minor sex trafficking.
Over the past few months, Shared Hope has received dozens of inquiries questioning the validity of various conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, many of these theories are unsubstantiated and can distract from the fight against minor sex trafficking. That being said, we have observed the recent emergence of a very real threat to our nation’s sexually exploited children: a mass spread of misinformation.
Although we have been extremely encouraged by the recent substantial increase in online and in-person advocacy for sexually exploited youth, we have also observed that there is a troubling amount of false information being rapidly spread by well-meaning, impassioned individuals. Unfortunately, no matter how well-intentioned, this spread of misinformation is proving to be hurtful to the anti-trafficking movement.
How misinformation is hurtful:
If the public is misinformed about what child sex trafficking typically looks like in the United States, they might not be able to recognize it when they come across children who are being trafficked.
For instance, many of these popular conspiracy theories are based on the false assumption that the typical victim of child sex trafficking in the United States has been kidnapped from a foreign country and is being kept in chains in the underground bunker of a powerful, wealthy individual.
This image of a child sex trafficking victim is far from the reality of what we see every day.
While any young person in this country can be targeted by traffickers, the vast majority of sex trafficked minors are born in the United States. Many traffickers have found that it’s much easier and less conspicuous to groom a vulnerable child in their community than to smuggle a child in from another country.
Instead of being kidnapped by their trafficker, nearly all victims of domestic minor sex trafficking are groomed by someone they love and trust. The trafficker then uses that love and trust to manipulate and sometimes blackmail their victims into being sexually exploited.
Very few victims of child sex trafficking are kept in a bunker or in chains. In fact, many victims are still living at home and attending school. Others might be living on the streets. Traffickers more often keep their victims “chained” to them using trauma bonding and complex psychological abuse.
The false image of what a child sex trafficking victim looks like has been so embedded in our society that many times, victims can’t identify themselves as being trafficked. Instead, they might see themselves as an “underaged prostitute” and believe they are to blame for their exploitation.
Along with making it more difficult to identify victims, the false narratives can also invalidate the voices of survivors of child sex trafficking, tie up valuable resources for victims and law enforcement, and create a partisan environment around an issue that is, and should remain, bipartisan.
How to join the fight:
Shared Hope International is non-profit organization leading the fight to end domestic minor sex trafficking. We are committed to fighting for boys and girls who are being bought and sold for sex. We want to make it clear that although we believe many of these conspiracies to be false, child sex trafficking is a very real crime that exploits countless victims each year in the United States.
That being said, it is not our intention to shame anyone who has unintentionally spread misinformation, but to invite these passionate members of the public to join Shared Hope International in the fight to end child sex trafficking.
Below are several pathways to action and resources that empower community members to take effective action:
● Become a Weekend Warrior: Every weekend, Shared Hope will provide new, cutting edge content to help individuals learn and spread the truth about the fight to end sex trafficking using social media–all in less than 15 minutes.
● Visit the Advocacy Action Center: Shared Hope created the Advocacy Action Center to make it easy for individuals to contact their local legislators about urgent issues, bills, and laws pertaining to the protection of victims and survivors and the increase of offender accountability.
● Get Educated with Shared Hope’s Sex Trafficking Training: Our training brings together the best methods of virtual education (including webinars and online courses) to equip everyone from industry professionals, to health care workers, to concerned citizens to be better advocates for sexually exploited youth.
● Become an Ambassador of Hope: Whether it is hosting a table at a local event, speaking to students, hosting a virtual meeting on what sex trafficking is, or leading a session for parents, Shared Hope equips these trained volunteers with all the training and tools they need to educate their communities and prevent sex trafficking.
● Sign the Defenders Pledge: The Defenders Pledge is designed to engage men in bringing dignity, honor, and respect to sexually exploited individuals. The goal of the pledge is to elevate voices of victims and survivors, hold other men accountable, and work to end the demand for this destructive market.
● Or simply donate to Shared Hope and support our life changing work.
At Shared Hope International, we believe that no matter who you are, or how much time you have, you can join the fight to end domestic minor sex trafficking.
Educate yourself on the issue using reputable sources, join our advocacy campaigns or volunteer!
Every action matters and the more people who know the signs of trafficking, the smaller the world becomes for those who buy and sell our children.