January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and it is a good time to call attention to the intersection between domestic violence and trafficking. Human trafficking includes both forced labor and sex trafficking. Like domestic violence, human trafficking centers around power and control. Tactics used by abusive partners such as physical and sexual violence, isolation, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, humiliation, financial abuse, denying/minimizing harm, manipulation of the legal system, control of important documents like passports or immigration papers and blaming the victim for the harm they are experiencing are all strategies also used by traffickers (1).
It is common for traffickers to persuade or coerce someone into sex or labor trafficking under the false pretense of a romantic relationship. Sometimes, victims are forced into commercial sexual exploitation or labor trafficking by a spouse or family member. According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, “a commercial sex act means any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person. Anything of value could include food, shelter, protection, gifts, or clothing. Where a person younger than 18 is induced to perform a commercial sex act, it is a crime regardless of whether there is any force, fraud, or coercion (2). ” We know that sexual coercion and violence are often an aspect of abusive relationships as well.
Efforts to end human trafficking also share similarities with domestic violence. The 4-Ps approach used by USAID’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) includes “Prevention of trafficking, Protection of victims and survivors, Prosecution of traffickers, and Partnerships for a strengthened response (3).” Sojourner advocates for similar strategies and believes in using a client-centered approach. This acknowledges that survivors are the experts in their own lives and deserve respect and support as they make choices that they feel best increase their safety and well-being. To learn more about human trafficking visit the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center.