Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking: Inherent Challenges and Promising Strategies from the Field. Study Overview


This is the second in a series of Issue Briefs produced under a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), to conduct a study of HHS programs serving human trafficking victims. Funded in the fall of 2006, the purpose of this exploratory project is to develop information on how HHS programs are currently addressing the needs of victims of human trafficking, including domestic victims, with a priority focus on domestic youth. This project also consists of reviewing relevant literature, and identifying barriers and promising practices for addressing the needs of victims of human trafficking, with a goal of informing current and future program design and improving services to this extremely vulnerable population.

This issue brief focuses on the identification of international and domestic victims of human trafficking in the United States. Critical to identifying someone as a victim is knowing first who meets the legal definition of a trafficking victim. The definition as set forth in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) is presented in the insert on this page, and this brief presents the inherent challenges to identifying victims based on this definition, as well as promising strategies undertaken by law enforcement, service providers, and other organizations to identify and reach victims.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines severe forms of trafficking in persons as,
  1. sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
  2. 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 (8 U.S.C. § 1101).

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