Myths and Facts About Human Trafficking

In recognition of National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Immigration Clinic has compiled several myths and facts about human trafficking, especially in the Hampton Roads region. 

Myth: Human trafficking only happens to immigrants. 

Fact: Human trafficking can happen to anyone, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. However, according to Polaris, there are certain factors that make some people more at risk than others, including “migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the child welfare system and being a runaway or homeless youth.” 


Myth: Victims of human trafficking are kidnapped by strangers, like in the movies. 

Fact: Most survivors of human trafficking know their traffickers. Many survivors are trafficked by their romantic partners, including their spouse, or their parents. 


Myth: A victim must cross a border to be trafficked. 

Fact: Human trafficking does not require the crossing of international borders, or even state borders. 

Human trafficking is defined in the United States Code as using force, fraud, or coercion in order to make individuals perform work, services, or commercial sex acts.  

Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling. Human smuggling requires the crossing of an international border, and the person who is smuggled is comparatively free to leave and make their own decisions after arrival at their destination. While there are many situations where human smuggling becomes human trafficking, they are two distinct situations. 


Myth: Sexual slavery and human trafficking are the same thing. 

Fact: Sexual slavery is a type of trafficking, but it is not the only form of trafficking. The U.S. Code defines two types of trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. 


Myth: Human trafficking only happens in big cities, like New York or Atlanta, and doesn’t happen in Hampton Roads. 

Fact: Human trafficking happens everywhere across the United States, but it may look different in suburban or rural areas. There are many industries where labor trafficking is common that can happen in small towns and large cities, including domestic servitude, farmworkers, and factory workers. In Hampton Roads, the tourism industry also plays a part in human trafficking. 


Myth: There are no resources for survivors of trafficking in Hampton Roads. 

Fact: The Immigration Clinic is one of many resources available to help support survivors of human trafficking. Samaritan House and Latisha’s House are two shelters that serve survivors of human trafficking in Hampton Roads. Since 2016, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Samaritan House has been providing shelter and mental health services to survivors. Since 2017, the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force has brought together government agencies and organizations to support survivors. Additionally, the Government of Virginia takes human trafficking seriously, and provides resources to Commonwealth’s Attorneys and the public on human trafficking. 

Help us support survivors of human trafficking in the Hampton Roads area. Click here to donate to the Shainwald Immigration Law Clinic Fund to support our work.