Online Program

Human trafficking: Empowering a comprehensive social work and public health response

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

M. Pippin Whitaker, Ph.D. MSW, College of Social Work, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Dana Dehart, Ph.D., College of Social Work, Center for Child and Family Studies, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Erika Lindstrom, College of Social Work, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery involving forced or coerced labor or sex for profit. US-based human trafficking is widespread—with well over 100,000 victims estimated each year—and incurs severe health consequences, including chronic disease, severe injury, psychological trauma, and premature death. Recognizing victim needs, governmental and non-governmental agencies have sought to train health professionals to respond to human trafficking. Trainings focus on legal criteria, signs of trafficking, ideal-type human trafficking cases, and victim needs and legal remedies. Yet, human trafficking often involves fuzzy boundaries between victimization and offending, challenging philosophies and protocols of justice and health professionals. Less clear-cut cases and social-ecological influences are rarely discussed in trainings. Health professionals, however, are uniquely positioned to understand and respond to problems in the social-ecology that increase risk for human trafficking. We explored life histories of 60 incarcerated women to determine how well the human trafficking legal criteria and responses fit women's experiences. We found a high rate of experiences meeting all human trafficking criteria, and many others meeting at least one criterion. Yet, the life experiences of women who suffered poly-victimization blurred the lines of ideal-type human trafficking, and social-ecological issues surrounding women's human trafficking victimizations paralleled conditions surrounding women's victimizations outside of human trafficking. Through the experiences and examples in our study, we illustrate the continuum of human trafficking-related victimizations and their relation to women's social-ecologies. We demonstrate ways to apply these results in trainings and in organizing a broader public health response to human trafficking.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Analyze differences between legal and law enforcement criteria for human trafficking and victims’ lived experiences of human trafficking in a context of poly-victimization. Differentiate between basic human trafficking response training and unique training opportunities and needs of social workers and public health workers. Describe the continuum of human trafficking-related victimizations and their relation to women’s social-ecological environments Discuss methods and case scenarios to enhance training and service outreach to better address social-ecological influences on human trafficking.

Keyword(s): Professional Training, Human Rights

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have ten years of experience in the US and India researching human trafficking and intimate partner violence. My research focuses on multi-level approaches to preventing these problems. I have several peer-reviewed publications and presentations based on my research. Relevant publication titles include “Contexts of control: Modern slavery in the United States,“ “Human trafficking in the US: Globalization’s impact on dispossessed, dominated, and discarded populations,” “Recovering Childhoods: Trafficking in Children from Bihar to Uttar Pradesh.”
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.