JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Human trafficking is a very real and scary thing, but what you need to be looking out for may not be what you think.
Hope Found of Northeast Arkansas is working hard to raise awareness of the dangers of human trafficking, while also advising the signs don’t always look like we expect.
One of the biggest hurdles in educating others on trafficking is debunking the rumors that often overwhelm the fight to stop trafficking.
Co-founder of Hope Found Megan Brown says while it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and be vigilant, properly educating yourself on sex trafficking is the best way to protect yourself and others.
Typically, social media posts about vehicles being tagged, suspicious vehicles, and others have been proven to not be associated with human trafficking.
However, sharing these posts without doing proper research can have a negative impact in the fight against trafficking.
“They tend to distract from how trafficking actually tends to happen,” said Brown. “So there are a lot of people focused on thinking this is the way trafficking happens and they fail to do their actual research. They fail to learn that trafficking is happening through online communication, that somebody could be possibly targeting their kid on Instagram or TikTok."
Polaris, a national human trafficking resource center, has debunked several of the tactics that are shared on social media most often, you can find the list of the most common human trafficking rumors here.
Brown says most of the false human trafficking theories have been proven to come from QAnon, a conspiracy theory movement.
Recently, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill that condemned QAnon, you can read that bill here.
“[The bill] basically says that because of these conspiracy theories they are flooding the trafficking hotlines, they are really affecting in a negative way the fight that is being done,” said Brown.
Brown says traffickers rarely target people they don’t know, and the signs of trafficking aren’t usually what people look out for.
“They are looking for people with noticeable vulnerabilities. They don’t want you to know that they are targeting you," said Brown. "They use tactics such as lying, manipulating, defrauding, coercion, and even dating as a way to lure a person into trafficking.”
Those most vulnerable to trafficking are kids and teens, runaways, those with addictions, or those struggling financially.
Brown said the majority of victims are lured into trafficking by someone they know and trust.
While it is good for people to want to spread awareness about trafficking and to be aware, Brown says you need to do your research before sharing something to social media that could be false.
“I encourage people to do their research. What does trafficking look like? What is the culture of trafficking? How are the experts saying that it happens, and share that information with others so that people don’t get mislead into thinking trafficking is something that it’s not,” said Brown.
If you are worried about trafficking here in Northeast Arkansas there is a hotline you can call locally at (870) 336-7256.
You can also learn more about human trafficking by visiting the Polaris Project website here.