Below the Fold: Myth-busting Hollywood’s Take on Human Trafficking


Before he left, Obama declared January National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. However, human trafficking is not something the average American knows much about beyond what is portrayed in movies and TV. We have all seen a movie, an episode of Law and Order: SVU or the second (and worst) season of the Wire that portrays the dark world of human trafficking, but likely, many of us have little first-hand knowledge the issue.

In this episode, I address the myths and stereotypes that entertainment sometimes perpetuates about human trafficking. I also threw in some baby animal pictures to lighten an otherwise heavy topic. Sometimes, movies can be effective conduits to raise awareness about societal issues.

Like, Philadelphia, the first mainstream film to acknowledge the AIDS epidemic.
Or the Big Short which broke down the financial crisis in hilarious layman’s terms.
Or Concussion, which should have given you yet another reason to feel guilty about still watching the NFL every Sunday.

In that same spirit, there’s been a number of movies in the last decade that have tackled the nightmare inducing issue of human trafficking.

Arguably the most obvious would be Taken, you know, when Liam Neeson plays an ex-CIA agent with “a very particular set of skills,” who rescues his daughter from an Albanian sex-trafficking ring.
There’s also the Lifetime miniseries, with the not so subtle title, Human Trafficking. In which, Mira Sorvino plays an ICE agent who goes undercover to take down a Russian trafficking ring.

There’s also The Whistleblower, where Rachel Weisz plays an American working as a UN peacekeeper in Bosnia who, yep you guessed it, uncovers a trafficking ring.

(Whispers) Why are they called rings?

I bring this rough topic up now, because, before he left, Obama declared January National Human trafficking Awareness month.

And since Trump hasn’t rescinded THAT yet, seems like a good time to raise some more awareness on a topic that isn’t widely understood. Because, while these movies and others like it, have shed more light on the issue, they also kinda, reinforce some myths and stereotypes about trafficking.

We’re gonna talk about 5 of them now!

Yeah, this episodes gonna be a little dark so i’m gonna throw in some baby animal pictures to get you through.

Myth 1: Human trafficking means sex trafficking

Myth 2 only women and girls are the victims and survivors

In all three of the films I mentioned, only show sex trafficking rings and all of the victims of those rings are women and girls.

But labor trafficking also falls under the term human trafficking and, worldwide, experts believe there are even more situations of it than sex trafficking. It exists in very above ground legal businesses, like agriculture, manufacturing, construction, hotels, restaurants even, sorry ladies, nail salons.

Additionally, men and boys are also targets. #

Myth 3. It’s a foreign problem

Not surprisingly, all three of these movies depict Americans as heroes and the “traffickers” as Albanians, Arabs and Russians.
But, this isn’t just a foreign problem. People are being trafficked in the U.S., there are Americans who traffick people and Americans who are trafficked. All at alarming rates.

Myth 4. Victims are kidnapped by strangers

Another assumption is that victims are always – or often- kidnapped or physically forced into the situation. In reality, most traffickers already know their victim and trick, defraud, manipulate and threaten them into an exploitative situation. In fact, different social media platforms have been exposed as places where recruitment can often start. I’m looking at your facebook. Ugh, I hope they don’t take this video down.

And, as horrifying as it is to think about, many survivors have been trafficked by people they trusted, like, romantic partners, family members, even parents.

Myth 5. We need to rescue them

You might assume that a victim of trafficking will ask for help if given the chance. That they are looking to be rescued. That is sometimes the case. More often, however, people in these situations stay for reasons that are more complicated, including being so manipulated that they don’t consider themselves to be under the control of another person.

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Summary of Human Trafficking 101: Dispelling the Myths
Human Trafficking Myths and Facts:
6 myths about human trafficking we all need to stop believing:

Organizations to support:

-United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons
-Polaris Project,
-Free the Slaves
– National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline, a resource that anyone can call to submit a tip about potential incidents of trafficking

Kristin Brey
Kristin Brey is a producer, comedian and activist. Her main focus is on promoting progressive politics and social consciousness through her web series “Below the Fold.” Each episode combines news you may have missed with comedy to create bite ADD-approved content that educates and entertains.


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