Statement on Misinformation about Child Trafficking
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 8, 2020
Lawrenceville, N.J. – As conspiracy theories and myths about child sexual abuse and child trafficking circulate online, the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) strongly urges our friends, allies, and community members to fight misinformation and learn more about the reality of child sexual abuse in the United States.
Child sexual abuse and child trafficking pose serious problems in New Jersey and beyond. These issues are complex, and myths and misinformation about these forms of sexual violence are widespread. Here’s what research and experts tell us about child trafficking in the U.S.:
Myth: Hundreds of thousands of children are trafficked in the U.S. each year.
Fact: There are no hard numbers on the prevalence of child trafficking in the U.S. Child protective service agencies in 27 states reported a total of 751 child victims of sex trafficking in 2018 and the federal government initiated 88 new child trafficking cases in 2019. While these figures are likely influenced by under-reporting to authorities, they indicate that child trafficking is far less widespread than believed. Higher figures that circulate online are often pulled from reports of missing children, the majority of which involve cases of runaways, not trafficking.
Myth: Most children are trafficked by strangers.
Fact: Similar to what we know about the dynamics of child sexual abuse, most victims of child trafficking are trafficked by someone they know – including romantic partners and family members. Traffickers often use grooming techniques, rather than force or abduction, to coerce and exploit their victims.
Myth: Trafficking always involves the kidnapping and transportation of victims.
Fact: Child trafficking includes the exchange of sexual activity for anything of value—such as money, food, shelter, or drugs—by someone under the age of 18, regardless of whether the victim is abducted or transported.
Myth: All children are equally at risk of being trafficked.
Fact: Like all forms of sexual violence, child trafficking disproportionately affects marginalized groups of people. Traffickers often target victims who are low-income or vulnerable. LGBTQ+ youth are five times more likely than heterosexual youth to be victims of trafficking, and children who runaway or experience homelessness also face higher risks of being trafficked.
Myths about child trafficking obscure the reality of child sexual abuse and prevent survivors from seeking help. Experts in the human trafficking field have spoken out against the recent spread of misinformation in the anti-child-trafficking movement, including through the hashtags #SaveOurChildren and #SaveTheChildren. The co-opting of legitimate anti-trafficking movements for the use of spreading unsubstantiated conspiracy theories is both harmful and counterproductive to preventing child trafficking.
Our work to eliminate child sexual abuse and exploitation—and all forms of sexual violence—requires that we fight misinformation, share accurate facts, and focus on known problems. We all have a role to play in preventing sexual violence, and we hope that our friends and allies join us in building safer, more equitable communities for children across New Jersey.
ABOUT NJCASA: NJCASA (www.njcasa.org) is the statewide technical assistance and capacity building organization that represents New Jersey’s county-based sexual violence programs and the Rutgers University Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. NJCASA elevates the voice of sexual violence survivors and service providers by advocating for survivor-centered legislation, training allied professionals, and supporting statewide prevention strategies that work to address and defy the socio-cultural norms that permit and promote rape culture.