Addressing the Gaps in Services for Survivors of Human Trafficking: An Opportunity for Human Service Providers

By Doran, Liza; Jenkins, Darci et al. | Journal of Human Services, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Addressing the Gaps in Services for Survivors of Human Trafficking: An Opportunity for Human Service Providers


Doran, Liza, Jenkins, Darci, Mahoney, Megan, Journal of Human Services


Addressing the Gaps in Services for Survivors of Human Trafficking: An Opportunity for Human Service Providers

Introduction

Human trafficking is modern day slavery (Logan, Walker, & Hunt, 2009). The 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act categorizes human trafficking in two ways: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking is "a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age" (22 U.S.C. [section] 7102[8], 2000). Conversely, labor trafficking is "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery" (22 U.S.C. [section] 7102[8], 2000).

In 2012, 400,000 trafficked individuals were identified in the United States.. However, up to 27 million people are estimated to be trafficked worldwide at any given time (U.S. Department of State, 2013). Trafficking victims tend to come from marginalized and vulnerable populations (e.g., people living in poverty, victims of physical, sexual, or emotional violence, and individuals displaced by armed conflict or natural disaster) and traffickers exploit these vulnerabilities (Omelaniuk, 2005). When these individuals leave trafficking situations, they require comprehensive services to meet their complex needs (Logan, Walker, & Hunt, 2009). However, many trafficking survivors lack access to these services. This article will examine both the need for human service practitioners to respond to all trafficking survivors, regardless of gender, immigration status, or trafficking type, and the need for safe, affordable housing.

Literature Review

Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, including men, women, children, adults, foreign-born, domestic, and of all sexual orientations (U.S. Department of State, 2013). It is therefore critical to provide services that encompass the diversity of the population. Yet, services tend to focus specifically on female survivors of sex trafficking who are United States citizens, despite the fact that there are three victims of labor trafficking worldwide for every one victim of sex trafficking (International Labor Organization, 2012). Although labor trafficking is more prevalent, sex trafficking is more visible in the media and is often used interchangeably with human trafficking (Logan, Walker, & Hunt, 2009). This conflation of sex trafficking with human trafficking is problematic as it de-emphasizes the experience of most trafficking survivors and it creates gaps in identification as well as services (Women's Commission, 2007). Furthermore, viewing sex trafficking as synonymous with human trafficking "severely hampers the work of anti-trafficking advocates and damages the rights of trafficking survivors" (Kim & Chang, 2007, p. 7) by failing to provide adequate resources for all survivors of modern-day slavery.

Resources for all survivors of human trafficking are scarce. The number of identified survivors has nearly tripled in the last decade, while federal funding for support largely has been stagnant (Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking, 2013). Publicly funded services for survivors are primarily available through the Office of Refugee Resettlement's National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program and the Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime. Though these critical safety net programs are designed to provide services across the nation, the limited funding appropriated to support these programs creates geographic gaps in service. Thus, depending on location, some trafficking survivors may not have access to specialized services (Clawson, Dutch, Salomon, & Grace, 2009). Additionally, of the limited funding that does exist, much of it supports female sex trafficking survivors (Women's Commission, 2007). …

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