An issue with our current culture is that if it isn’t constantly in the news the impression is that the problem doesn’t exist. Many people are shocked to find out that trafficking is still happening, and a main contributor to that surprise is the under-reporting of trafficking. Since this is an issue that Love True has to face daily, two of our directors shared their views on the issue of under-reporting.
“There are many elements that continue to drive the under reporting or not accurate numbers when it comes to human trafficking. One main reason is that many survivors do not self identify as victims of human trafficking and services providers are not informed and educated to recognize signs of human trafficking in others lives. This leads to many individuals not receiving the care and support they need in the journey of healing. This is why at Love True we take great emphasis and care in providing training and education for the entire state of New Jersey.
"As we continue to work with survivor leaders in the state of New Jersey and hear from others across the country, we see another hurdle in accurate reporting. Time and time again survivor leaders share the fact that they were never interviewed for a statistic or their case was never prosecuted as human trafficking causing their case to never be reported. Many states across the US only recently adopted legislation that allowed the prosecution of Traffickers and buyers and offered protection for victims.
“Previously, due to lack of education and awareness, victims would typically be wrongly accused as a prostitutes and the criminals manipulating and controlling them would never be arrested. Love True is proud to say that New Jersey has specialized legislation called the Human Trafficking Victims Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act. Awareness of the New Jersey Human Trafficking Victims Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act is essential for all New Jersey residents to be aware of. This legislation is groundbreaking in finally decriminalizing victims and truly allowing the justice system to work to prosecute the true criminals involved in selling and purchasing of human beings." ~ Rebekah Hayward, Executive Director
"One thing that is known by most professionals working in the anti-sex trafficking field is that boys are trafficked, as well as girls. While it is clear that under-reporting is prevalent among many victims of sex trafficking, one thing that needs to be addressed is the under-reporting by the male population. Some of the typical reasons behind the lack of reporting by all victims of sex trafficking apply to boys as well, including they’re not self-identifying as survivors due to lack of awareness and service providers not having received adequate training to recognize and report sex trafficking; however, there are other factors that contribute to under-reporting among boys and men. One of the more predominant of these factors is the hyper-masculinity in our culture that is marked by a 'machismo' mentality. Men are conditioned to hide their emotions and appear as strong as possible by hiding their weaknesses, which includes any indication that they are victimized by anything; in this case, that is sex trafficking. As a result of this 'machismo' mentality, tied with the typical person's lack of understanding of sex trafficking, most people tend not to believe a boy if or when they disclose that they are a victim of sex trafficking, leading to no official report being made. In fact, the U.S. Department of State states that boys are at a greater risk of being penalized for offenses they committed as a result of being trafficked. Therefore, it is necessary for boys to be taught from a young age that it is okay for them to express their weaknesses and service providers, law enforcement, and people all across the United States need to be provided accurate education on the trafficking of boys and girls in order for us to see an increase in reported cases of the trafficking of boys that is symbolic of the number of boys that are actually being trafficked across the United States." ~ Alec Shover, Director of Prevention and Education
Under-reporting doesn’t have to be a problem with no solutions. A beautiful thing about the current social media culture is that sharing information is only a couple clicks away. The more those who do know about sex trafficking share their knowledge and the news they hear the more it will spread. You may think that you don’t have the influence to change our culture, but there is no one else in this world with your exact social reach. Sharing your knowledge and resources on sex trafficking to your social circle may not change the fact that many cases go unreported but it will help spread the cases and stories that are. Let’s utilize our unique social reaches and spread the reporting that does happen, like this recent story from Morris County New Jersey, looking forward to a time when we no longer have cases to report.