Study of HHS Programs Serving Human Trafficking Victims. Need for Further Study

12/15/2009

Despite increasing attention to the problem of human trafficking into, and more recently within, the United States, knowledge and understanding of the issue and how best to serve victims remain fairly limited (Albanese, Donnelly, & Kelegian, 2004; Derks, Henke, & Vanna, 2006). The promising practices identified by service providers are an important first step in understanding the problem and potential solutions. However, much remains unknown about trafficking cases, including characteristics of the victims and perpetrators (beyond those identified by law enforcement or service providers); the long-term impact of human trafficking on victims, their families, and communities; the effectiveness of anti-trafficking programs; and best practices in meeting the needs of victims. What is known about victims of human trafficking is focused primarily on the trafficking of women into the United States for sexual exploitation, with little attention to domestic trafficking, child victims, and in particular, male victims of sex and labor trafficking.

Findings from research and evaluations of programs serving victims of domestic violence, torture victims, prostituted children, and exploited homeless and runaway youth have provided insight into what we might expect to find from similar studies of programs serving international and domestic victims of human trafficking. However, in the absence of such studies, service providers, policy makers, and others in the anti-human trafficking field have been left to draw conclusions from overviews, commentaries, and anecdotal information (Gozdziak & Collet, 2005).

This study is intended to begin examining the extent to which the needs of victims of human trafficking, both international and domestic, are being addressed by HHS programs. Specifically, this exploratory study expands our current knowledge and understanding of the existing research and literature related to the definition of human trafficking, outreach and identification efforts, and understanding and meeting victims needs, including the availability and accessibility of needed services.

Additionally, this report examines issues related to anticipated outcomes for victims, documentation of these outcomes, and any potential lessons that have been learned from the work being done by HHS programs and other service providers and first responders.

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