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What do you think when you hear the term human trafficking? Do you picture a van pulling up and snatching a pretty white girl off the street? Do you see that girl being forced into a life of sexual slavery? Can you imagine this helpless girl being rescued from her evil captor? Mainstream media is the reason for this misconstrued image you may have pictured in your head. Most individuals have become sympathetic to this "rescue narrative" frequently depicted by American media and crime thrillers, yet its emphasis on sex trafficking leaves other forms of human trafficking without proper representation in modern media. Within our research, we will explore how the trafficking narrative is embedded in both national and international law. Subsequently, we will compare how these legally defined forms of human trafficking are depicted in American movies and television shows from 2009-2019. To conclude our analysis, we will describe what a human rights-centered approach to television and film would encompass. The representation of human trafficking in American media and key legal instruments creates a narrative that does not represent the complexities of this issue and favors rescuing and policing as opposed to the human rights of trafficked persons.



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Media vs. Law: How Human Trafficking is Represented in American Media