• July/August 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 6

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Human Trafficking Survivors and Resistance to Treatment

In working with child victims of human trafficking, service providers often find that these young people are highly resistant to receiving services and fully participating in treatment. A recent study explores the experiences and observations of service providers working with child survivors of human trafficking. The purpose of this exploratory, qualitative study was to better understand the experiences of survivors and possible sources of their resistance to the provision of available services, with the goal of informing the development of more appropriate and targeted interventions.

Researchers recruited adult working professionals who provide services—including legal assistance, human services, and advocacy—to victims and survivors of child trafficking. A total of 15 service providers from 12 separate agencies were interviewed through a semistructured interview process. Practitioners who work in the area of trafficking assert that fear (of violence, threats to family, lack of documentation, punishment by police, etc.) can keep victims from asking for help and receiving services. In addition, the study identified the following five other factors that contribute to victim resistance:

  • "Good" vs "bad" victims: Service providers described a "good victim" as a victim with whom society sympathizes (e.g., a victimized child from an upstanding family). A "bad victim" may come from a "less desirable" family background for which people may feel less sympathy.
  • Identification with the trafficker: Sometimes, a victim may appear to form perceived positive relationships or emotional connections with his or her trafficker despite the abuse experienced.
  • Lack of self-identification: Child victims often do not have an adult framework for defining abuse and exploitation and, therefore, do not identify themselves as victims.
  • Building trust with providers: Child victims often have difficulty trusting others after experiencing abuse and exploitation.
  • Lack of empowerment: The provision of services reintroduces child victims to a more structured life in which they may have difficulties adhering to routines and tedious environmental requirements or meeting behavioral expectations they may now find oppressive.

Read more about this study in the article "Understanding Victim Resistance: An Exploratory Study of the Experiences of Service Providers Working With Victims of Child Trafficking," by A. West and D. Loeffler, Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, 6(1), 2015, available at http://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/childrenatrisk/vol6/iss1/5/.

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