January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, but awareness of what exactly?

Sabra Boyd
4 min readJan 11, 2022
Estuary at sunset

Each year on January 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized across the U.S. This year, we should examine what we are actually building awareness of.

As a child trafficking survivor who has also worked for anti-trafficking nonprofits and shelters, I have watched disinformation about human trafficking spread across social media, proliferated by grifter groups like QAnon, Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), NCOSE (formerly Morality in Media), and Exodus Cry who capitalize on survivors’ trauma. If we actually want to prevent human trafficking, we must recognize that trafficking is exploitation that thrives on vulnerability.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines human trafficking as the force, fraud, or coercion of a person for the commercial benefit of a perpetrator. It is exploitation of vulnerable people, usually by a person who is familiar to the victim, such as a boyfriend, girlfriend, or family member. In campaigns to build awareness, sex trafficking is often sensationalized — but protecting vulnerable people from labor trafficking is equally important, though rarely receives the same level of attention.

As The Washington Post’s Jessica Contrera reported on the debunked Wayfair conspiracy, QAnon’s influence has grown an online mob that harms the people they claim to care about by tying up the precious few resources available to real trafficking victims and social workers. Disinformation has also contributed to the racist targeting of biracial families. An example of this occurred when Cindy McCain reported a biracial family for trafficking their child at an airport in 2019. McCain said she saw “[…] a woman of a different ethnicity than the child, this little toddler she had, and something didn’t click with me.” Police interrogated the family who were not trafficking their child.

Other persistently harmful stereotypes are that traffickers are not wealthy, white or respected members of the community. But like child molesters, human traffickers often hide in plain sight, systematically grooming and isolating victims. Recent high profile examples of this include R. Kelly, Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell. Victims’ stories in these cases illustrate how we can’t punish or incarcerate our…

Sabra Boyd

Sabra is a child trafficking survivor who is seeking an agent for her true crime memoir | The Glass Castle x The Godfather | sabraboyd.com