In last week’s blog, There Is such A Thing as Bad Publicity (see below), I wrote about the media’s use of language that often leads to misconceptions about human trafficking. This week I continue this focus by looking at the media outlets common use of sensationalized text, because in our society sex sells. It is no surprise that sex trafficking cases triumphs labor trafficking cases in the media, since the appeal of sex is much stronger.
A great example that demonstrates the detrimental effects on sensationalizing human trafficking is the Super Bowl. A very common misconception is that the Super Bowl is the biggest event for human trafficking in the United States; and that is something that is widely acknowledged by not only the media but also certain professionals and advocates. It seems reasonable to claim that the Super Bowl is the biggest hot spot for trafficking because hypothetically it makes sense. The idea that thousands of football fans, mostly men, are traveling to a city for the biggest sporting event of the year with a lot of money to spend, that naturally, they will seek out strip clubs and prostitutes. This then causes pimps and johns to supply more trafficked women and girls to meet the growing demand. However, that is not the case. In reality, there is NO single largest incident of human trafficking because each year there is no evidence or statistics to support such claims. Nonetheless, news outlets try to sensationalize sex trafficking but the problem is so dire that there is no need for it to be amplified. Even though the Super Bowl brings a lot of attention to the issue of human trafficking, it does so at the expense of the truth. The media attention hinders the credibility of the campaign against human trafficking and limits long-term resources necessary for victims to recover.
The primary way individuals and communities will be able to combat trafficking is if they are informed and educated about its realities. It is important to understand that language and imagery play an influential role in perpetuating misconceptions. The media’s selection of language is strategic and helps create a misinformed public, which prevents necessary efforts from being examined.
Take Action: One of the reasons that I like being a part of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF) is because the MHTTF Director and the task force members want to focus on truth and not sensationalism. I encourage the readers of this blog to continue addressing these common misconceptions that are often perpetuated by the media and to inform others of the reality of human trafficking. Accurate information enables us to effectively use our resources, time and effort to help all victims of human trafficking.
Sona Movsisyan is a senior at Michigan State University, studying in the James Madison College. Her aspiration is to be a human rights attorney and an advocate for victims of human trafficking.