Media Portrayal of Human Trafficking Victims

During my work in human trafficking I came in contact with a colleague of mine, Rebecca Larsen. Rebecca is a fellow student in the School of Social work and is also dedicating her work to the anti-human trafficking movement. Interestingly, we are both focusing on the issue of victim identification in the United States, however we are taking very different approaches to the topic. After listening to Rebecca’s presentation in class, I asked her permission to use some of here information for my blog. Her view on the mis-identification of human trafficking victims stems from the Social Construction theory and is based on the media portrayal of a human trafficking victim. Below is a graph and breakdown of sex trafficking victims by race, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

Rebecca Graph

Black women and girls make up the majority of human trafficking victims, however this majority is not represented in media portrayals of a victim. Below is a collage of images from human trafficking advocacy groups.

Media Collage

The above photos show mostly all young white women. Due to the media portrayal and social construction of human trafficking, law enforcement officers have been predisposed to inaccurate images of what a human trafficking victim looks like. This misrepresentation is added to by the media’s portrayal of minority women: black women being portrayed as sex workers or prostitutes and Hispanic women being portrayed as undocumented immigrants. I firmly believe that all of these factors play into the issue of law enforcement misidentifying human trafficking victims.

Special thanks to Rebecca for her data and work in combating human trafficking.


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