The Truth About Trafficking

by Dominique Arce on

Articles 7 min read

“Sex-trafficking” has become a buzzword in today’s society. We hear and see numerous depictions in the news and media about who’s being trafficked and how they end up in these situations. However, would it surprise you to hear that many of the ways that the media depicts this issue are riddled with misconceptions that can actually be harmful to victims?

Sarah* is a child sex trafficking survivor, a college student, and an incredible artist. She has overcome a myriad of challenges during her life to get to a place where she can look boldly at her past without being defined by it. In this article, we will use aspects of Sarah’s story to dispel some of the common myths surrounding trafficking here in the U.S. and focus on what you, as a believer, can do to make a difference. 

Myth: Most trafficked children are kidnapped and held against their will.

Sarah’s story of exploitation begins when she is only three years old. Due to a tragic injury, Sarah’s mother becomes addicted to narcotics and moves in with her new boyfriend who readily supplies her with drugs. However, this boyfriend begins to physically and sexually abuse three-year-old Sarah and she quickly realizes that home is not a safe space.

When Sarah turns 13 years old, her mom is able to save up enough money to buy her a phone. Sarah quickly begins to lose herself in social media, building multiple profiles and posting pictures that she’s sure people would like to see. After all, for the past 10 years she has been unfairly sexualized—she knows what people want from her.

Through her social media profile, she meets Steve*, an older man who begins to send her money and lavish gifts. Sarah is delighted by the attention and is happy to accept the gifts. They eventually meet in person and Steve convinces Sarah that she would be much happier living with him as his girlfriend, rather than with her mom’s boyfriend who has only ever hurt her. Sarah carefully considers and decides to run away with Steve. Home was never safe, but maybe a life with Steve would be. It was only a matter of time before Steve began setting up dates for Sarah, so that she could “help contribute to the bills.”

Myth: Once a youth is recovered from a trafficking situation, they will remain safe.

Sarah had been living with Steve for around a year when a date that he set up for her brought Sarah face-to-face with an undercover officer. Recognizing that Sarah was underage, the officer transported her to the nearest children’s advocacy center and connected her with medical services and an advocate that worked to build trust with Sarah. On this night, Sarah learns more about what the officer keeps referring to as “trafficking” and feels safe with the advocate that was assigned to her.

However, after her recovery while Sarah is placed at a temporary shelter, Steve reaches out through her social media and arranges for Sarah to run from her placement so that she can come home. As much as Sarah is grateful for the help she received from the officer and her advocate, she misses Steve. He is her boyfriend and he proved time and time again that he would show up for her. So, she runs.

Sarah would be recovered and run from safety seven more times before she builds up enough trust and has the mental and emotional resources to make the decision to remain out of “the life.”

Myth: Traffickers are looking for girls or boys with specific physical features or characteristics.

As Sarah continued her journey of freedom, she began to learn from other survivors about her own experiences. She soon found out that she was not the only girl that Steve was involved with. In fact, detectives were able to identify and recover four other underage girls that Steve was trafficking, due to Sarah’s newfound cooperation.

Part of Sarah’s healing journey was learning that Steve didn’t pursue a relationship with her just because he thought she was beautiful. She learned that men like Steve targeted children who were vulnerable. Sarah’s extensive physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather and her mother’s drug addiction made Sarah a target for manipulation. In fact, many of the girls Sarah met while with Steve had a myriad of different vulnerabilities in their past that made them susceptible to trafficking in their future.

Sarah’s journey was a winding and imperfect one, and it continues to be. She still struggles to maintain a consistent work schedule while she is in school and must consistently fight the urge to turn back to unhealthy coping mechanisms. But through a community of support that she has worked very hard to build up around herself, she is committed to her journey of freedom.

How can I help in the fight against child sex trafficking?

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. (Psalm 89:14)

Mercifully, we serve a compassionate God of justice. While hearing these stories and being exposed to this level of depravity can wear on our frail, human hearts, we have a hope that cannot be stolen. The Lord sees and fights for each of these victims and has equipped his people to do the same.

Cultivate Understanding

The first step in making a difference in the fight against human trafficking is to pursue accurate knowledge about the issue. Read reputable research and survivor stories, understand the legislation in your area and know the facilitators and signs of trafficking. Misinformation can be a powerful tool that works directly against these brave survivors.

Connect with Survivor-Informed Organizations

The best way to make an impact is to link arms with a community already doing good work. Vet organizations by assessing how they spend money, how they communicate about trafficking and whether their programs are informed and/or led by survivors.

Consider What You Bring to the Table

What talents, resources or passions has the Lord equipped you with? For example, maybe you can donate time and resources to raise money or gather gift cards for food and healing experiences for survivors. Perhaps you are a hair stylist and can provide free haircuts to survivors. Everyone can share information on your personal platform to educate others in your network. Don’t discount the seemingly simple ways to take action: it matters!

Challenge Harmful Perspectives

Each of us has a sphere of influence, where the Lord has called us to know others and to be known. The way that we talk about issues and people matters—especially with those whom we feel most comfortable. Use language that brings dignity and life to survivors, rather than language that perpetuates harmful and ostracizing stereotypes. These shifts in the way we describe another human promote respect and compassion instead of disgust or pity.

Call on Others

Don’t keep what you’ve learned to yourself. The mission of freedom does not work without people standing up, speaking out and taking informed action. Send this article to a friend and keep the impact going!

This is only the very beginning, friends. There is still much work to be done. If you’d like to learn more about how you can help survivors like Sarah, visit our website at

Until all are free,

Dominique Arce

*all names in this article are changed to protect survivor confidentiality


About Traffick911

Founded in 2009, Traffick911 is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in North Texas committed to freeing youth from sex trafficking by building trust-based relationships. Learn more at

About the Author

Dominique Arce is Community Relations Coordinator for Traffick911.