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A Policy Brief prepared by the Research To Policy Collaboration with support from the Society for Community Research and Action
This statement is an official statement of The Society for Community Research and Action, Division 27 of the American Psychological Association, and does not represent the position of American Psychological Association or any of its other Divisions or subunits.
Approximately 40 million people worldwide, including many in the United States, are estimated to be victims of human trafficking — a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control both adults and children.1 Human trafficking can take many forms, such as forced and bonded labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation.
Awareness about human trafficking and the factors that make individuals and communities vulnerable has increased, but prevention efforts designed to proactively address known risk factors are lacking. Instead, efforts typically address exploitation after harm occurs.2 These downstream interventions contrast with primary prevention, which aims to prevent trafficking before it occurs by addressing underlying risks. Thus, policies are needed to promote comprehensive primary prevention efforts that address known risk factors for victimization using multi-tiered strategies.
Trafficking vulnerabilities occur at the individual, family/neighborhood, and societal levels (see table below).3-5 Lack of access to protection and justice make people vulnerable to trafficking.6 Traffickers tend to exploit the needs of potential victims, whether they are basic physical needs for housing and food or emotional needs, such as love and belongingness. The potential for exploitation is influenced by events across the life course, route of victimization,4 and gender.7 Prevention strategies can be tailored to the specific vulnerabilities and needs of individuals and communities.
Coordinated Primary Prevention Efforts by Local Task Forces should use data-driven approaches that first assess vulnerabilities for human trafficking at all levels and then implement research-informed prevention strategies, such as those listed in evidence-based practice registries.11 These strategies should leverage the six characteristics of primary prevention: (1) strengthening individual knowledge and skills; (2) promoting community education; (3) educating providers; (4) fostering coalitions and networks; (5) changing organizational practices; and (6) influencing policy.12,13 To date, much attention has been given to awareness raising, which is applicable for many community-stakeholders. However, it should not be used in isolation, as raising awareness without further action has not proven effective.14
Free the Slaves is a particularly successful task force model for trafficking prevention that seeks to strengthen communities and help them overcome key vulnerabilities. This model uses a four-pronged, data-driven approach that brings stakeholders together to conduct contextual research, increase organizational capacity, foster community resistance and resilience, and ultimately reduce slavery/trafficking.15
Successful primary prevention strategies should employ multiple, concurrent approaches in a variety of levels and settings, as seen in the examples provided below. Although some of these examples are conceptually focused and do not meet the definition of evidence-based programs, several have been shown to be promising practices warranting further study. Overall, the limited evaluation of existing strategies and programs points to the critical need for funding to rigorously evaluate these efforts to ensure the most effective prevention outcomes.
1) Violence and crime prevention. Strategies to reduce violence and crime include:
2) Housing and urban development. Addressing neighborhood-level risk factors, such as homelessness, may mitigate vulnerabilities for human trafficking. These strategies include:
3) Businesses. Trafficking victims may be coerced into both labor or sex trades with exploitive labor practices, which can be reduced by:
4) Healthcare. As trafficking victims interact with the healthcare system at all stages of their victimization, the healthcare workforce is an ideal space to identify and intervene with those at risk.32,33 For example, up to 88% of trafficking victims report seeking health care at some point during their exploitation, including emergency care, primary care, psychiatry, dentistry, obstetrics and gynecology, and plastic surgery.34 Strategies that can be implemented in the healthcare field include:
5) Schools and child welfare. Trafficking vulnerabilities involving educational challenges and substance use can be targeted within the school setting. Further, attending to the economic and social needs of children targets fundamental vulnerabilities such as childhood abuse, family disruption, and child welfare involvement.39 Examples of such strategies include:
Prepared through the Research-to-Policy Collaboration with the support of the Society for Community Research and Action and the following organizations. Authors: Elizabeth Long, Joan Reid, Jill McLeigh, Hanni Stoklosa, Erika Felix, & Taylor Scott. For more information: Contact Taylor.Scott@research2policy.org.
1. International Labour Organization. Global estimates of modern slavery: Forced labour and forced marriage. 2017; http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575479.pdf.
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11. Children's Bureau. Child Welfare Information Gateway - Prevention Evidence-Based Practice Registries. https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/management/practice-improvement/evidence/registries-resources/registries/prevention/.
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14. European Commission. European Policy Brief: The demand-side in anti-trafficking - Current measures and ways forward. 2017; http://demandat.eu/publications/european-policy-brief-demand-side-anti-trafficking-current-measures-and-ways-forward.
15. Free the Slaves. Our Model for Freedom - Community Based Causal Model. 2007-2017; https://www.freetheslaves.net/our-model-for-freedom/community-based-causal-model/.
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20. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Technical Packages for Violence Prevention: Using Evidence-based Strategies in Your Violence Prevention Efforts. 2017; https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/technical-packages.html.
21. National Gang Center. About the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model. https://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Comprehensive-Gang-Model/About.
22. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Model Programs Guide. https://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg.
23. Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy. Evidence-Based Policing Matrix. 2013; http://cebcp.org/evidence-based-policing/the-matrix/.
24. United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. 2015.
25. National Health Care for the Homeless Council. Universal Solutions to Prevent and End Homelessness. 2012.
26. National Alliance to End Homelessness. The State of Homelessness in Americe. 2016.
27. Burt MR, The Urban Institute, Pearson CL, Montgomery AE, Walter R. McDonald & Associates. Strategies for Preventing Homelessness. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development;2005.
28. The National Alliance to End Homelessness. Homelessness Prevention: Creating Programs that Work. 2009.
29. Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Anti-slavery Program. 2012; http://www.ciw-online.org/slavery/.
30. Made in a Free World. Slavery Footprint. 2018; http://slaveryfootprint.org/.
31. Responsible Sourcing Tool. https://www.responsiblesourcingtool.org/.
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39. Duger A. Focusing on Prevention: The Social and Economic Rights of Children Vulnerable to Sex Trafficking. Health Hum Rights. 2015;17(1):E114-123.
40. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Essentials for Childhood: Steps to Create Safe, Stable, Nurturing Relationships and Environments https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/essentials_for_childhood_framework.pdf.
41. Protect - Human Trafficking Education. Prevention Organized to Educate Children on Trafficking. 2016.
42. iEmpathize. The Empower Youth Program. 2012; https://iempathize.org/eyp/.
43. My Life My Choice. 2016; http://www.fightingexploitation.org/.
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46. Embry DD. The Good Behavior Game: A best practice candidate as a universal behavioral vaccine. Clinical child and family psychology review. 2002;5(4):273-297.
47. Frey KS, Hirschstein MK, Guzzo BA. Second Step: Preventing aggression by promoting social competence. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. 2000;8(2):102-112.
48. Reid JA. Entrapment and Enmeshment Schemes Used by Sex Traffickers. Sexual Abuse-a Journal of Research and Treatment. 2016;28(6):491-511.