Human trafficking literature review

Subject: Sociology
Type: Synthesis Essay
Pages: 9
Word count: 2372
Topics: Crime, Human Trafficking


The review of literature will provide more insight as well as shed light on human trafficking in the USA. The review identifies points necessary for the identification of the issues relating to human trafficking in America. The review uses literature relevant to the risk factors as well as solutions and strategies that may help in restoring the functioning and performance of the survivors of the heinous acts. At the end, a summary to the review is given for a quick overview of the points covered by the review.

Risk Factors of Trafficking

Runaway History

According to Alvarez and Alessi (2012) throughout the USA, more than 36,000 boys and 47,000 plus girls below 18years were identified by law enforcement as runaways, mostly by being picked.  Girls, specifically, who run away from homes are greatly predisposed to trafficking. Runaways from foster and group homes are particularly targeted by traffickers.  Over the years, a correlation has been drawn between the status of being a runaway and exploitation through prostitution with majority of the prostitutes touted to be runaways. For example, Kempadoo et al. (2015) observed that characteristic in 96 percent of San Francisco cases, Ahn et al. (2013) observed that 72 percent of prostitutes in Boston had history of being runaways, whereas and 56 percent of Chicago prostitutes were runaways (Newton, Mulcahy & Martin, 2008).  Approximately 77% of reported sexual victims have a runaway history (Ahn et al., 2013).  According to Newton et al. (2008), majority of runaways take part in commercial sexual exploitations such as prostitution within 48 hours of their disappearance.

Once on their own, homeless runaway youth risk victimization due to lack the finances, support systems, or even interpersonal skills (Bakker & Silvey, 2012). Notable lacking skills among runaway children include conflict resolution or problems solving. Inability to meet basic needs is equally a concern which increases their vulnerability to human trafficking (Shamir, 2012). Every so often, minors opt for substance abuse or commercial sex just to meet their basic needs (Ambagtsheer & Weimar, 2012).  In addition, exposure to dangers on the street increases their visibility and vulnerability to traffickers while their risky practices also increase the likelihood of victimization (Bales, 2012).

According to Bales (2012), most victims of human trafficking, especially sexual related trafficking are found in the urban areas, although their origin more often than not are from suburban areas. However, as the number of arrests due to sex trafficking in rural and suburban areas keeps escalating, there is increasing likelihood that prostitution is beyond the limits of the city centres (Bales, 2012). Although further research would be helpful in determining the actual source of the increased suburban arrests given that it could be either due to improved identification or it may be also as a result of an overall increase in incidence.

Individual and Community

Vulnerability to force, coercion or fraud cut across all social, cultural and demographic characteristics that human trafficking victims may be classified using (Ambagtsheer & Weimar, 2012).  Trafficking offenders target those who are economically struggling and those unable to meet basic needs.  The gender inequalities that demean girls and women in some countries encourage the obtainment of cheap labor (Ahn et al., 2013).  Victims of human trafficking, both domestic and international have a number of traits that predispose them to or put them at risk of trafficking activities.  Some of the shared characteristics include young age, poverty, low education, limited work opportunities, absence of support from family, previous history of sexual abuse, residential characteristics and area of residence (Kyle & Koslowski, 2011).

Escapees from civil wars and economic crises constitute the vast majority of international human trafficking victims in America (Kyle & Koslowski, 2011).  Many victims international trafficking come from disadvantaged countries in which human trafficking is a major income source (Macy & Graham, 2012).  Continents mostly targeted by traffickers include Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa mainly due to the few opportunities that exist within them, the high crime rates, armed conflict discrimination against women, violence against children and women, political instability, and corruption by the government (Macy & Graham, 2012).


Safety Planning

One common theme throughout the various programs aimed at helping human trafficking victims is Physical and emotional safety (Siskin & Wyler, 2012). Agencies need to assure maximization of victim safety through provision of referral services so that the victims’ physical well-being is not jeopardized. Security is also a concern during provision of housing for victims.  Safety is required not only for the victims and those who are taking care of them, but also everyone else who is around them  (Shamir, 2012). Communication also needs to be clear regarding the rules for shelter services. Some of the shelter services include but are not limited to disclosure of location and use of telephones. Rule enforcement would somewhat guarantee safety for everyone. Also a safety consideration is the health status of the victims with relevance to communicable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and typhoid (Ambagtsheer & Weimar, 2012). The risk of exposure of others around the victims is also a safety issue.  These circumstances need to be established as during the initial victim screening and assessment.


Since the trafficking victims’ needs are diverse and complicated, not one single agency can respond adequately to all of them. As such, – the whole population would be a good move for ensuring that all groups are covered by specific agencies. The implication then is that the agencies will work together to realize the same. Some NGOs and service providers go to the extent of offering in-house services which may include both social as well as legal services.  However, most other services required by the victims are only obtainable through collaboration with other agencies.  Such services include sexual assault shelters, counseling services, or even health clinics (Oram, Stöckl, Busza, Howard & Zimmerman, 2012).

There are a number of collaborations existing throughout Canada and the United States.  Their collective goal is to increase identification and awareness regarding adolescent services to victims of exploitation through prostitution (Alvarez & Alessi, 2012).  Community policing techniques would also help in building rapport with street, homeless, or runaway youth, thereby strengthening the efforts of law enforcement in a bid to outfight the traffickers who are mostly associated with sexual assault on the vulnerable youth.  The agencies operate collaboratively with youth shelters, children’s advocacy centers, child protective services, victim service providers (Berger, 2012). Tasks to be undertaken by each collaborating agency need to be clarified and clearly defined way before the victims arrives for assistance. The definition of what is required from each participating party would help resolve a number of issues (Oram, et al., 2012).

Relationship Nurturing

As is always known among providers serving adult females, building relationships and making connections every so often proves critical first steps in moving out of prostitution (Berger, 2012). Females in general, from young girls to adult women gradually get alienated from the rest of the world. In most circumstances, the female victims confess not communicating with people outside of the circles within the sex trade for years (Alvarez, M. B., & Alessi, 2012). When relationships are supportive gaining information on traffickers is easier from just the discussions with the victims (Siskin & Wyler, 2012).  Building relationships demands time as well as a neutral view of the victim by the provider without prejudice or passing judgment. As such maintaining the momentum of the relationship could prove decisive in establishing the relationship (Cho, Dreher, & Neumayer, 2013).

Overcoming enormous hurdles in the recovery process is crucial whilst while nurturing the relationship with the victim, especially when the trafficking activity is international.  Furthermore, as a result of differences in culture and language, a huge number of victims might not be receptive to the provider and therefore would be disinterested in fostering a relationship with the provider.  Sentiments from victims of international trafficking reveal that the victims are often taught how to not trust others. Resultantly, any offer to assist would be misjudged by the victims as a move against their well being. The suspicion often also increases if the provider does not demand for anything in return given that part of the training that the victims are often passed through is to get paid for every activity they are engaged in (Macy & Graham, 2012). Non governmental organizations over the recent past have resorted to strategies that are not only slow on the patient, but also those that build their trust in them. The activities also need to be consistent because repetitive actions would overshadow the denial of the victims (Kyle & Koslowski, 2011).

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Customized Service Provision by culture

Cultural and racial matters are vital when the victim population is crosscutting through cultures (Bakker & Silvey, 2012). For instance, due to the sustained and repeated racial harms, the needs of black American women differ hugely from white women who are in similar circumstances (Ramachandran, 2012). Cultural differences may also emerge from varying religious practices, dietary needs, and behavior).  Women who experience conflict and problems may be helped through cultural sensitivity workshops, efforts to foster cross-cultural dialogues and events (Bakker & Silvey, 2012). So as to provide culturally appropriate support and services, providers need to be cognizant of existing differences in various cultures and make an effort to understand the cultural questions at hand.  Some of the activities that are focused on in a bid to understand the community include learning ways of identifying and articulating a people’s cultural practices, beliefs, and assumptions (Cho et al., 2013).

Another activity that would ensure improved understanding is   an investigation of ways that address similarities or differences in culture among the survivor, provider and interpreter (if used). Also, learning from various perspectives and sources regarding the states, cultures, and subcultures of the survivors in question would help in developing an appreciation of alternative avenues for helping the survivor (Abadinsky, 2012). Equally, an assessment of the variables that are culturally relevant most especially the societal roles, and the role of spirituality and religious inclination would the enable the provider to accord the customized solutions to the victims. The provider may then also need to used cross-cultural dialogue tools (Baldwin et al., 2011). An enquiry by the provider to the survivor on their value for culture would also guide the provider on the limits that culture places on them.

Trauma-Informed Programming

Trauma is one experience that all victims involved in human trafficking share.  A comprehensive service plan would help in ensuring that victims of all categories of trauma are covered. Due to the uniqueness of each individual with regards to the tenacity and ease of overcoming the trauma, the comprehensive service plan ensures that all victims get necessary assistance. Some of the approaches to trauma-informed programmes include individual and group therapies, or sometimes art therapy which is a therapy that is conducted in the air of support, love, and acceptance without conditions.  In addition, providers utilize a myriad of techniques to help young females experiencing memory problems, among other trauma-related signs (Kotrla, 2010).

According to Isaac, Solak and Giardino (2011), fundamental changes in practices, beliefs, and attitudes by the provider is necessary so as to enable them to develop an understanding of the effect of the trauma on the victims.  In order for the trauma-informed programmes to be successful, the provider needs to understand that trauma is a significant life event which has a complicate course that is able to determine the sensitivity of a survivor to others, and sometimes, to self as well (Gozdiak, 2013). The distinction needs to be made in such a way that trauma would then not be confused as a predictable event. The trauma informed provider needs to understand the symptoms presented by the survivor and not confuse them with individualized problematic views. The provider also needs to have the whole picture laid down regarding the objectives of the trauma informed solutions such that the core goals remain to empower the survivor as well as to help them recover (Siskin & Wyler, 2012). Recovery then also needs to be three pronged so that there is achievement of mastery, efficacy and growth. Finally, the provider needs to understand that the provider-survivor relationship is collaborative. When both parties are aware that they have a role to play, they will most definitely own the whole process (Siskin & Wyler, 2012).

Involving Survivors in Developing and Providing Services

It I always challenging to help traumatized minors or adult females due to the compounded trust issues and the belief in good will of the provider must be assured always before commencement of the activities.  Therefore, incorporating peer counseling and other people who have a history similar to that of the trafficked victims would help the victims to warm up to the whole therapy session (Gozdiak, 2013).  As the survivors are involved in the process, they get to share their experiences – a key component in the healing process by the victims.  Baldwin et al. (2011) state that, trauma survivors are able to help victims go through the transitions. The shared memories also provide strength to the current victim. Some of the other populations of traumatized individuals or survivors that may be included in the service provision are individuals with HIV, addicted individuals, and war veterans.

Summary of the literature review

In general, age, unemployment, gender inequality, health and mental health problems, corruption and politics, health problems, high rates of crime, corruption and politics all contribute to high human trafficking rates of in the America. The available literature also  indicate that maltreatment of children, especially through sexual abuse, has some negative bearing and implications on adult victims’ mental health, physical health, and social functioning. A history of child maltreatment among the adolescents increases the likelihood of developing mental health problems.

There are a number of strategies that may be helpful including incorporating planning for safety. The literature revealed that both the staff and the client need the safety planning. The literature also identified relationship building and multiple agency collaboration as key to the fight against human trafficking. Involvement of survivors is another strategy identified by the reviewed literature. Finally, two other possible solutions identified by the reviewed literature included the use of trauma-informed programmes and selecting approaches that are appropriate to some local culture.

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