March 13, 2019

Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence

YWCA Spokane Conducts An Important training on Human trafficking

From a recent employee survey, YWCA Spokane identified that almost half of our domestic violence advocates and counselors expressed having worked with a client who either self-disclosed or was suspected to be a victim of human trafficking. 

As a response, one of YWCA Spokane’s Domestic Violence Advocates conducted an internal training for our team about human trafficking and how it intersects with the domestic violence advocacy we currently provide at YWCA Spokane.

Our staff had the opportunity to learn about the legal definitions of human trafficking, current statistics,  how statistics are researched, and how to expand the trauma-informed care we provide for our clients.

human trafficking VS intimate partner violence

Domestic violence and human trafficking are issues that can overlap in complicated ways. Power and control dynamics exist in domestic violence as well as in human trafficking. Victims of both crimes are subject to physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and economic abuse, as well as isolation. Traffickers, like abusers, use cyclical violence to control victims through promises of love or a better life, and by using shame and manipulation, and may even be a victim’s spouse, intimate partner, or family member.

Key similarities between intimate partner violence and human trafficking:

  • Methods of Abuse: power and control exist in intimate partner violence as well as trafficking. Similarly, victims are subject to physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and economic abuse as well as isolation.
  • Cycle of Violence: traffickers, like abusers, use cyclical violence to control victims by promises of love or a better life and by using shame and manipulation.
  • Continuum of Abuse: intimate partner violence is often cited as push factors to trafficking. From a Freedom Network brief: “Domestic violence impacts a person’s self-esteem. Traffickers frequently exploit the already lowered self-esteem of trafficking victims who have experienced abusive family lives. Conversely, trafficking survivors are often vulnerable to future incidences of domestic violence.”
  • Trafficking by Intimate Partners and Family: traffickers can be those closest to a victim, including their spouse, intimate partner, or family member.

Essentially, both human trafficking and domestic violence are manifestations of power and control. The key difference between human trafficking and intimate partner violence is that Human Trafficking is the exploitation of individuals for commercial gain.

“When traffickers are also domestic violence abusers, the two forms of violence can be difficult to discern, and at times, impossible to separate. Categorizing individuals as either being a survivor of human trafficking or a survivor of domestic violence may limit a survivor’s options for social services and legal remedies.” – Freedom Network brief

What is human trafficking?

U.S. law defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor or services against their will, outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). The exception is minor involved in commercial sex, where force, fraud, or coercion need not be present for human trafficking to occur.

TL;DR- A person who is trapped in a situation of economic exploitation from which they cannot escape is likely a victim or trafficking. Someone involved in moving that person into exploitation or keeping them there against their will is likely a trafficker.

Action-purpose-means model

The Action-Means-Purpose (AMP) Model can be helpful in understanding the federal law. Human trafficking occurs when a perpetrator, often referred to as a trafficker, takes an Action, and then employs the Means of force, fraud or coercion for the Purpose of compelling the victim to provide commercial sex acts or labor or services. At a minimum, one element from each column must be present to establish a potential situation of human trafficking.

Human trafficking vs. human smuggling

Model from World Now

Human trafficking and human smuggling are very different situations, though often the words “trafficking” and “smuggling” are used interchangeably. Human trafficking involves force, it is a crime against an individual, and the victim does not need to be moved across borders. Human smuggling takes place when an individual agrees to be smuggled across an international border, usually as a means of immigrating, and it is a crime against a country.  Please note that human smuggling can easily turn into human trafficking if, at some point in the process fraud, force, or coercion into labor or commercial sex becomes involved.

The scope of the issue

The International Labour Organization & Walk Free Foundation estimated in 2017 that there are 40 million victims of modern slavery worldwide. This includes:

  • 25 million people in forced labor
  • 4.8 million in forced sexual exploitation
  • 15 million people living in a forced marriage

Additionally, victim statistics show:

  • 25% are children
  • 71% are women and girls
  • 50% were victims of debt bondage
  • 99% of victims of sexual exploitation globally were women and girls*

*however, advocates working with Commercial Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) victims in the United States estimate that up to half of CSEC victims may be male, trans, or non-binary.

It’s important to note that trafficking victims can be anyone. They may not always appear abused; a trafficking victim might be free to go places, appear happy, and even advertise for more customers. This does not mean that there isn’t force, fraud, or coercion present. Traffickers use threats or acts of violence against victims and/or their loved ones, isolation, lies about work/visa situation, coercion through love, and many other tactics to entice their victims into forced labor or sex work.

Keep in mind that many victims do not self-identify as “human trafficking victims” due to a lack of knowledge about the crime itself and the power and control dynamics typically involved in human trafficking situations. Also, the term “human trafficking” was really coined and exported by the US after the creation of the TVPA; globally it is more commonly referred to as forced labor.

Forced labor includes workers on construction sites, in factories, on farms and fishing boats, and in the commercial sex industry. While commercial sex is illegal in many countries around the world, most forms of human trafficking occur in completely legal industries (i.e. they are “hidden in plain sight”). This includes the United States, where trafficking victims are exploited in hair salons, massage parlors, farm fields, meat packing companies, strip clubs, door-to-door sales, hotels, cleaning companies, elder care, and more.

Human trafficking in the U.s.

One way the U.S. collects data on human trafficking is through the National Human Trafficking Hotline and the amount of calls received. Of the almost 41,000 calls to the hotline between 2007-2017, more than half were connected to sex trafficking cases. However, this could be attributed to the fact that sex trafficking is what is better known as human trafficking and therefore more often reported.

Statistics from calls made in 2017 to the national human trafficking hotline can be found through the Polaris Project.


Photos From The Training

By: Olivia Moorer

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