Myths About Human Trafficking

There are so many myths going around—it’s important you know the truth about Human Trafficking.

Myth #1:

Human trafficking is a crime that involves sneaking someone across a border.

FACT: Human trafficking is sometimes confused with human smuggling, which is a different crime that occurs when someone pays a smuggler to facilitate crossing over an international border. Human trafficking, on the other hand, is sexual or labour exploitation that may involve movement inside the person's own country OR movement across an international border. Domestic human trafficking means that you are from or reside in one country, and you are trafficked within that country. International human trafficking means you are brought to another country for the purpose of exploitation. The overwhelming majority of what we see in Canada is DOMESTIC human trafficking.

Myth #2:

Human trafficking happens in developing countries, not in places like Ontario.

FACT: Ontario is a major centre for human trafficking in Canada, accounting for roughly 65 percent of police-reported cases nationally. (Ontario’s Strategy to End Human Trafficking, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, 2016). 93% of sex trafficking victims come from Canada, not other countries. (Canadian Women's Foundation (2014): Fact Sheet: Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada.)

Myth #3:

Sex trafficking can only happen to people who use drugs or have other serious risk factors.

FACT: While some groups have been identified as at-risk, there are also cases in which no known risk factors are present. In those cases, traffickers often target very young people and may build trust during a "grooming" period before exploitation begins. We are seeing an increase in cases where no drugs are being used at all.

Myth #4:

You never get to see your family when you are trafficked

FACT: Often survivors report that they were living at home with their parents while they were being trafficked. Sometimes movement from city to city takes place, but not always. Some survivors report that they continue to attend school while being trafficked to maintain the illusion that everything is fine.

Myth #5:

Traffickers are strangers

FACT: A recent study found that over a third of victims were recruited by men they considered to be their boyfriends. Another 25% were lured through friends, most often victims themselves. (Canadian Women’s Foundation (2014): “No More”: Ending Sex Trafficking in Canada, Report of the National Task Force on Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada.)

Myth #6:

If a person isn’t kept locked up or in chains they can always just leave.

FACT: Some people who are trafficked are controlled and monitored constantly and don’t have the opportunity to ask for help. Others may not realize or acknowledge what is happening to them or that it is a crime. In some cases, they may fear their trafficker or law enforcement too much to risk seeking help. They may also be manipulated to believe that the trafficker is the only person who cares about them and that they are best off staying with their trafficker.

Myth #7:

Victims are kidnapped


  • There’s a common misconception that people are forcibly removed or kidnapped. In reality, there are very, very few cases where this has happened.
  • You go with this person because they have begun to meet all your basic needs
  • You're more likely to stay with that person when you feel loved and cared for, and not see the red flags before it's too late
Myth #8:

Traffickers use physical violence and lock people up to keep them from leaving


  • Physical violence is often used to some degree, then the threat of physical violence alone can be enough to keep you there.
  • Psychological manipulation is much more effective.
  • The bars are invisible. This exemplifies how strong the ties are.
Myth #9:

All sex work is human trafficking


  • A lot of people believe all sex work is inherently exploitative, but this is not necessarily true. Everyone is entitled to their own view on this but by law, not all sex work is trafficking. 
  • Sex work exists along a spectrum of experience, and we call it the 3 Cs:
    • Choice: I am an independent sex worker; nobody is making me do this.
      • Nobody is behind the scenes involved in any way, making money off me.
    • Circumstance: sometimes called survival sex work.
      • Poverty, mental health, addiction can drive people to survive by engaging in sex work
      • Somebody’s circumstances are inherently exploitative, but no third person behind the scenes doing it to you and profiting from you 
    • Coercion: human trafficking
      • When someone has forced, tricked, manipulated someone, causing them to enter into the sex trade
      • A third party taking your pictures, posting ads, deciding what services, how many people you will see
      • If I don't make a certain amount of money, I could get hurt
Signs to look for »   Who is targeted »

Helpful Resources

5 Things to know about human trafficking
5 Things to know about Human Trafficking in Durham Region

This informative 12-page booklet will give you good insight as to how Human Trafficking occurs in Durham Region along with 5 ways to ignite change to combat Human Trafficking.

Download resource
Victim Services of Durham Region
Human Trafficking: Parents & Prevention

Victim Services of Durham Region know that caregivers’ attention, love, and awareness is the biggest defence against Human Trafficking. This simple 2-page flyer is full of tips, signs to look for and detailed information on how to intervene when speaking to children about sensitive topics.

Download resource

There is hope!

If you are a victim of Human Trafficking or know of someone who might be:

Click here to learn what you can do »

© 2021 Durham Region Human Trafficking Coalition.