Top 5 Ways Conspiracy Theories Hurt Survivors

1. Perpetuates Stereotypes

Many of these theories boast children locked in basements, white women kidnapped from upper middle class families, or women and children sold on the Black Market. These are all things that can happen to survivors of sex trafficking. But they aren’t the only thing. Conspiracy theories paint a very specific picture of what trafficking looks like and, in the process, invalidate the experience of other survivors.

2. Misinformation Spreads Quickly

These theories are not usually launched on a whim. They are well thought out, expertly crafted, and shrouded in truth. With the sensationalized stories, the catastrophizing, and the exploitation of bits and pieces of real survivor stories, these stories gain traction quickly. Tack on a catchy hashtag that pulls at the heartstrings, and in no time it's trending.

3. Silences Survivor Voices

When a survivor tries to speak out about the mistruth of these theories, they are targeted by conspiracy theorists. Their stories are picked apart, not believed, even mocked. Any survivor story that does not fit the narrative is silenced or spread as untrue. Theorists can even go as far as saying sharing these true stories is a ploy by whomever they’re targeting as alleged traffickers.

4. Makes Anti-Trafficking Organizations’ Jobs Harder

For the general public who don’t believe the conspiracy theories, anti-trafficking organizations become painted as “just another one of those crazy conspiracy theorists.” People who could have a large impact don’t engage. For those who believe the theories, anti-trafficking organizations are targeted as accomplices of these alleged traffickers when they share accurate information.

5. Interferes with Education

Well-meaning people fall for these conspiracy theories. Their hearts are broken for trafficking survivors and they want to help change what is happening. This leaves them either giving time, social media interaction, and donations to organizations claiming to help the survivors of the alleged traffickers, or coming to legitimate organizations looking to help. Those who fall into the latter category, who have already heard these wild theories, are left in shock and confusion as they hear the reality of trafficking. They have to be completely reeducated because they’ve been taught misinformation.

Conspiracy theories hurt survivors. They hurt the organizations who serve survivors. Stop spreading them.