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Public Affairs

Sex trafficking: are you spreading misinformation with every "share"??


We've all shared the Facebook memes and posts about some plot to kidnap women and how they need to be aware of this and take X, Y and Z steps to be safe. That's just being thoughtful, right?  But people who work with victim-survivors say we're perpetuating the idea that the only way you can be trafficked is if a stranger kidnaps you, or that only adult women are trafficked.

And when we do that, we're ignoring the people - young people: boys and girls 12-14 years old - who ARE being trafficked in our community.

Likewise, when we think of someone being trafficked, images of people in chains or scenes from the Liam Neeson movie Taken come to mind.  So news media stories featuring those photos are spreading misinformation, too.

Because the reality is more horrifying than any movie.  The trafficking is happening to kids in our community and it's being done, not by scary strangers, but by parents, family members, friends, or romantic partners.

January is Trafficking Awareness Month, and a coalition of groups like the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA), Life House Youth Center, First Witness Child Advocacy Center, the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO), and the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse (CASDA) are holding a variety of online events that are open to the public.

And the University of Massachusetts Amherst is just one place where you can find a list of fact-checking resources before you share or retweet.

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