Can We Stop Retraumatizing Victims of Human Trafficking?


By Jacquelyn Blanco, Rocio Casillas, Nadia Dominguez, Jennifer Le & Faith Plummer California State University, Long Beach

There have been many policies created to offer auxiliary services for trafficked victims. One such policy is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). The main critique of the TVPA (2000) is retraumatizing victims.

The TVPA requires victims to testify to receive supportive services/benefits, which can easily trigger and retraumatize individuals. It is important to shift the attention on preventing human trafficking from further affecting vulnerable populations instead of dealing with the aftermath.

We suggest the following changes to help better address the global issue of human trafficking. We think that TVPA need to prioritize and protect the treatment of human trafficking victims as opposed to legal prosecution of perpetrators.  We propose that the victims should not be required to testify against the perpetrator. Another change we are proposing is to integrate educational comprehensive prevention model. Psychoeducation needs to be provided to empower individuals to advocate for their needs. We suggest that all identified individuals affected by human trafficking have equal access to benefits, services, resources and opportunities. Services would include: mental health services, occupational training, educational needs, crisis interventions, emergency shelters, health care, safety plans, employment assistance, monetary support, transportation, and legal services.

Due to the high number of trafficking victims in within the Unites States, it is safe to say that it may lead to an excessively high demand for services and benefits. The suggested changes will make the victim feel safe and respected, using a more trauma informed approach, moving away from the ‘insensitivity’ the TVPA approach has been critiqued for. Such approach will shift away from victim criminalization and feelings such as shame and/or guilt.