Module 2: Community Program Design

Course Objectives

· CO1: Describe mental health needs in the developing world and demonstrate effective interventions on individual, family, group, community, and organizational levels.

· CO2: Analyze sociopolitical barriers and design macro solutions to scaling up of mental health treatment in the developing world.


Review the readings for Modules 1 and 2. Choose one psychosocial problem –

1) Human trafficking
conduct a literature review.

2) Focus on one country or region (e.g., sub-Saharan Africa,) so that your recommendations are culture-specific.

**3) Describe the prevalence and causes of the problem in general and, if available, in your country or region of choice. Describe also the costs of the problem to the individuals and to the society in which it occurs, and which of these costs you hope to address through your program.

4. Design an intervention program
that is
culturally appropriate
, strengths-based, and empowering for the community. **Include at least two of the following ecological levels: Individual, family/group, community, and organization.

5. For the community level, apply concepts of community development to create a sustained response to the problem.

6.Complete your assignment by discussing how you will monitor and evaluate outcomes for all program goals.

Grading Criteria

Your paper will be graded based on following criteria:




Literature Review


· Articulates the prevalence of the problem in the region chosen, the individual and societal costs of the problem, and the determinants of the problem. 

· Argues for the need for intervention of the type you have designed.

Intervention Program: Level 1



· Describes the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed.

· Provides empirical support for choices of intervention.

Intervention Program: Level 2



· Describes the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed.

· Provides empirical support for choices of intervention.

Organizational Needs


Analyzes the organizational policies, resources, and stakeholder cooperation necessary to implement and sustain the program.

Program Monitoring and Evaluation


Appropriate, culturally unbiased measures are used to monitor and evaluate program outcomes, including quantitative and qualitative assessment.

Clarity of Writing


Communicates information using clear and concise language with no errors in English grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation.

APA Style


All sources are credited using APA formatting, and paper is formatted according to APA guidelines with proper title page, headings, and reference page.



A quality assignment will meet or exceed all of the above requirements.





This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome

Literature Review

30 pts

Highest Level of performance

Articulates fully all three: the prevalence of the problem in the region chosen, the individual and societal costs of the problem, and the determinants of the problem. Argues with abundant evidence for the need for intervention of the type you have designed.

26 pts

Very Good or High Level of Performance

Articulates adequately all three: the prevalence of the problem in the region chosen, the individual and societal costs of the problem, and the determinants of the problem. Argues with adequate evidence for the need for intervention of the type you have designed.

23 pts

Acceptable Level of Performance

Articulates adequately two of three: the prevalence of the problem in the region chosen, the individual and societal costs of the problem, and the determinants of the problem. Argues with minimal evidence for the need for intervention of the type you have designed.

0 pts

Failing Level of Performance

Articulates adequately one or fewer: the prevalence of the problem in the region chosen, the individual and societal costs of the problem, and the determinants of the problem. Does not argue for the need for intervention of the type you have designed.

30 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome

Intervention Level 1

30 pts

Highest Level of performance

Describes with consistent detail the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed. Provides abundant empirical support for choices of intervention.

26 pts

Very Good or High Level of Performance

Describes with mostly consistent detail the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed. Provides adequate empirical support for choices of intervention.

23 pts

Acceptable Level of Performance

Describes with somewhat consistent detail the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed. Provides inadequate empirical support for choices of intervention.

0 pts

Failing Level of Performance

Describes with little or no detail the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed. Provides minimal or no empirical support for choices of intervention.

30 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome

Intervention Level 2

30 pts

Highest Level of performance

Describes with consistent detail the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed. Provides abundant empirical support for choices of intervention.

26 pts

Very Good or High Level of Performance

Describes with mostly consistent detail the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed. Provides adequate empirical support for choices of intervention.

23 pts

Acceptable Level of Performance

Describes with somewhat consistent detail the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed. Provides inadequate empirical support for choices of intervention.

0 pts

Failing Level of Performance

Describes with little or no detail the goals, methods, and steps or stages of the intervention at the chosen ecological level, as well as what training and supervision are needed. Provides minimal or no empirical support for choices of intervention.

30 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome

Organizational Needs

15 pts

Highest Level of performance

Analyzes with consistent detail the organizational policies, resources, and stakeholder cooperation necessary to implement and sustain the program.

13 pts

Very Good or High Level of Performance

Analyzes with mostly consistent detail the organizational policies, resources, and stakeholder cooperation necessary to implement and sustain the program.

11 pts

Acceptable Level of Performance

Analyzes with somewhat consistent detail the organizational policies, resources, and stakeholder cooperation necessary to implement and sustain the program.

0 pts

Failing Level of Performance

Analyzes with little or no detail the organizational policies, resources, and stakeholder cooperation necessary to implement and sustain the program.

15 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome

Program Monitoring and Evaluation

15 pts

Highest Level of performance

Appropriate, culturally unbiased measures are used to monitor and evaluate program outcomes, including quantitative and qualitative assessment.

13 pts

Very Good or High Level of Performance

Mostly appropriate, culturally unbiased measures are used to monitor and evaluate program outcomes, including quantitative and qualitative assessment.

11 pts

Acceptable Level of Performance

Somewhat appropriate, culturally unbiased measures are used to monitor and evaluate program outcomes, including either quantitative or qualitative assessment.

0 pts

Failing Level of Performance

Inappropriate or culturally biased measures are used to monitor and evaluate program outcomes, including either quantitative or qualitative assessment.

15 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome

Clarity of Writing

20 pts

Highest Level of performance

Communicates information using consistently clear and concise language with no errors in English grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation. Paper is logically organized with introduction, transitions, and conclusion

17 pts

Very Good or High Level of Performance

Communicates information using mostly consistently clear and concise language with few errors in English grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation. Paper is mostly logically organized with introduction, transitions, and conclusion.

15 pts

Acceptable Level of Performance

Communicates information using somewhat consistently clear and concise language with some errors in English grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation. Paper is somewhat logically organized with introduction, transitions, and conclusion.

0 pts

Failing Level of Performance

Communicates information using unclear and/or inconcise language with frequent errors in English grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation. Paper is not logically organized with introduction, transitions, and conclusion.

20 pts

This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome

APA Style

10 pts

Highest Level of performance

All sources are credited using APA formatting, and paper is formatted according to APA guidelines with proper title page, headings, and reference page.

9 pts

Very Good or High Level of Performance

All sources are credited using APA formatting, and paper is formatted according to APA guidelines with proper title page, headings, and reference page.

8 pts

Acceptable Level of Performance

All sources are credited using APA formatting, and paper is formatted according to APA guidelines with proper title page, headings, and reference page.

0 pts

Failing Level of Performance

All sources are credited using APA formatting, and paper is formatted according to APA guidelines with proper title page, headings, and reference page.

10 pts

“One Size Does Not Fit All:” A Proposed Ecological Model for
Human Trafficking Intervention
John R. Barnera, David Okechb, and Meghan A. Campa

aCarl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA; bSchool of Social Work,
University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

The problem of human trafficking continues to be one of the vilest
human rights abuse and manifestation of social injustice around the
world. A lot of antitrafficking efforts have been put in place. However,
there is still a lot of emphasis on the criminal aspect of the problem.
This has meant that human and practical aspects of the problem
have not received sufficient attention, including assessing the pro-
blem, victims, and perpetrators in their environments. The ecological
perspective helps practitioners, researchers, and policy makers to
better understand the problem. This article uses the main concepts
in this theory to frame the problem. Discussions are directed toward
understanding the different aspects of the problem from an ecologi-
cal perspective.

Ecological theory; human
trafficking; person in the
environment; vulnerable


Human trafficking represents one of the greatest violations of human rights today. It is
estimated that as many as 27 million men, women, and children around the world are
victims of what has been referred to as the contemporary slave trade (US State
Department, 2012). Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked
across national borders, while two million to four million are trafficked within their
own countries (US Department of State, 2006; United Nations Office of Drugs and
Crime [UNODC], 2006). Of the 600,000 to 800,000 internationally trafficked victims,
80% are women and adolescent girls, while up to 50% are children (United States Aid
for International Development [USAID], 2006). Since many cases are unreported, these
estimates may be far lower than the actual number of victims (Davis, 2007; Potocky, 2010).

Human trafficking is generally defined as 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 (United Nations, 2000).To address the problem of trafficking, the United States
enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) as part of the Violence Against
Women Act (VAWA), Public Law 106–386 (US Department of State, 2017). The TVPA is
the centerpiece of US antitrafficking efforts.

In its conception of trafficking, the TVPA distinguished sex trafficking from other
forms of human trafficking to address heinous acts inflicted upon especially vulnerable
populations. Trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or

CONTACT John R. Barner [email protected] Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

2018, VOL. 15, NO. 2, 137–150

© 2018 Taylor & Francis

coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act(s) has not attained 18 years
of age, is defined by the TVPA as sex trafficking. After its enactment in 2000, the TVPA
was reauthorized in 2003, 2005, 2008, and most recently in March of 2013 (Violence
Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013).

While such division and specialization of human trafficking aids law enforcement
entities in the United States and abroad, attention must still be paid to the impacts that
exist outside the judicial and procedural definitions that define the crime to address the
full range of victims (Lusk & Lucas, 2009; Okech, Morreau, & Benson, 2012). A holistic
understanding of the problem of trafficking is critical in providing effective services to the
broadest cross-section of families and individuals affected by the issue. Such an under-
standing provides practitioners with a framework for prevention, intervention, and pro-
gram design as well as policy advocacy. A macrolevel understanding of the victims’
circumstances as well as perpetrators’ motivations is necessary to provide care and services
to impacted families as well as the enforcement of criminal law, both domestic and

Accordingly, this article provides a holistic framework for working with individuals and
families impacted by human trafficking. This framework is based upon ecological theory
(Bronfenbrenner, 1981) and the strategies developed by antitrafficking programs around
the world. The article is divided into four main sections. Section 1 describes the extent of
human trafficking worldwide. Section 2 introduces the ecological framework and its
theoretical and conceptual links that have direct application to addressing trafficking.
Section 3 provides specific applications of the ecological framework to the problem of
trafficking, drawn from a selection of international antitrafficking efforts and their best
practices. Section 4 concludes with recommendations drawn from services for creating
environments that empower those individuals at risk of trafficking, their families, as well
as those working within the milieus of treatment, prevention, and policy reform.

Understanding human trafficking

Trafficking lends itself to a number of micro-, mezzo-, and macrofactors. It is often
exacerbated by socioeconomic dislocations, military conflicts, and natural disasters that
force people to seek work far from their homes or families to survive (Sigmon, 2008).
Jones and colleagues (2007) as well as Barner and colleagues (2014) observed that
trafficking reflects the darker side of globalization as many people now seek employment
outside their countries, thus rendering themselves susceptible to deception. The rising
number of poor and vulnerable families around the world enables traffickers to identify
and target victims (Fosu, 2017; Joshi, 2002). Corruption among law enforcement officials
and the existence of criminal networks also provide protection to traffickers (Jones et al.,
2007). The United States Agency for International Development (2006) stated that gender-
based violence and the commoditization of women can create psychological and emo-
tional harm that enables traffickers to lure their victims into servitude. Traffickers reg-
ularly target orphans and those with physical disabilities and many persons who lack
economic stability due to their circumstances (Hughes, 2004).

As of 2017, according to the International Labour Organization, 62% of persons
trafficked are victimized in Asia and the Pacific (2017). Japan, Thailand, the Philippines,
and Burma are known for large sex tourism industries (International Labour


Organization, 2017), a context that provides a setting for trafficking to thrive. Eastern
Europe is the second largest provider of sex trafficking victims, mostly trafficked to
Western Europe or the United States (International Labour Organization, 2017). The
same report detailed that the previous regions are followed by Latin America, the
Middle East, and Africa in the number of victims trafficked.

Trafficking is a growing issue in Africa, where approximately 50,000 people are
trafficked from the continent each year (Obuah, 2006). Commercial sexual exploitation
of children and domestic minor labor trafficking are also prevalent in Africa (Sertich &
Heemskerk, 2011). Girls from Northern Ghana, for instance, are regularly recruited to act
as domestic workers and head porters (street peddlers) in metropolitan areas like Accra.
Once the girls arrive at their destinations, they are not compensated as promised and are
often forced to exchange sexual services for shelter (Sertich & Heemskerk, 2011). Human
trafficking in this form is often underpinning poverty (Fosu, 2010).

Human trafficking has emerged in Ghana partly due to the abuse of indigenous cultural
practices by some family members (Atuguba & Raymond, 2005; Sertich & Heemskerk,
2011). Traditionally, parents send their children to live with extended family members to
strengthen family ties or enhance their children’s skills, education, and life prospects
(Atuguba & Raymond, 2005). As Baumann (2007) observed, it is common practice for
parents to send their children to reside with relatives [in bigger cities] in the hopes that
they will “have a better chance somewhere else” (p. 1).

Unfortunately, some young children living with relatives are now being exploited for
labor, sex, and domestic services. Some 70% of trafficked girls in Ghana are handed over
to traffickers by their parents in exchange for money or a gift (Atuguba & Raymond,
2005). The abuse of this cultural practice offers a new way of understanding trafficking,
i.e., the use of culturally sanctioned informal structures to abuse vulnerable children. It
also illustrates the financial desperation that compels many family members to sell and
traffic their children to survive economically.

Addressing human trafficking

Efforts to combat trafficking are found across the globe (Barner et al., 2014). These efforts
have been criticized, however, for not focusing resources on the most critical priorities
(Goodey, 2008; Potocky, 2010). Krieg (2009) contends that the EU’s efforts are hampered
by defining trafficking within a narrow criminal context, much to the chagrin of the UN
and other agencies that propose a human rights-based definition. Krieg warns that
antitrafficking efforts will fail if the EU’s foci do not extend beyond immigration fears
in Europe. For example, Spain treats trafficking solely as a crime, leaving human rights
and service provision aspects to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Spain imposes
harsh punishments on traffickers but provides little support to victims, such as resources
for social integration (De Leon, 2010).

Japan has initiated successful institutional antitrafficking reforms, including crack-
downs and prosecutions. Still, trafficking continues to thrive underground as traffickers
find more sophisticated means of acquiring and exploiting their victims (Yokoyama,
2010). In Burma [Myanmar], efforts to combat trafficking have been hampered by ethnic
tensions, political instability, corruption, and a failure by state agencies to protect women
and children (Pimoljinda & Thianthong, 2010).


Australia passed strong antitrafficking legislation in 1999, 2003, and 2005, but the
efforts have been criticized for assisting only trafficked persons who agree to cooperate
with investigations and prosecutions (Kotnik, Czymoniewicz-Klippel, & Hoban, 2007).
India has passed legislation to combat the practice; however, a report by Hameed and
colleagues (2010) suggested that more work in India is needed, including protection and
rehabilitation of rescued victims, involvement of NGOs, and sensitization of rural com-
munities in accepting trafficking victims with dignity.

Green (2008) argued that US antitrafficking efforts, i.e., prevention of trafficking and
prosecution of perpetrators, have taken priority over the more practical and human
components of the guiding legislation, such as protection of victims. Also, Okech and
colleagues (2012) called for more support in identifying victims of trafficking in the
United States as well as providing holistic services to them. They noted that some social
workers in the United States were assisting domestic violence victims, not knowing that
these clients were actually victims of human trafficking. Such oversights highlight the need
for a holistic framework to help inform practitioners’ understanding of trafficking while
highlighting possible interventions.

An ecological understanding of human trafficking

Ecological theory may provide a framework for understanding the individual, relational,
social, and environmental impacts of phenomena like trafficking (Bronfenbrenner, 1981).
Ecological theory is a holistic perspective that emphasizes individuals’ interactions with
their environments. People are understood to be engaged in multiple environments (e.g.,
immediate environment, cultural environment, national environment, and global envir-
onment) simultaneously.

This holistic, multilevel framework has direct application to trafficking. As Rafferty
(2008) noted, an “ecological perspective. . .is a possible framework to conceptualize risk
factors associated with . . .trafficking because it emphasizes the relationship between people
and their environment, rather than examining the characteristics of either in isolation” (p.
13). An ecological perspective offers a method to understand the complex, multilevel
social, and economic factors that facilitate trafficking (McDonald & Timoshkina, 2004;
Molland, 2005).

Take, for instance, what are commonly referred to as the “pull” and “push” factors
(Jones et al., 2007). Push factors refer to entities, such as poverty, which drive people away
from certain environments. Pull factors refer to entities, such as the perception of
increased economic opportunities, which entice people toward other environments.
Traffickers use this pull/push dynamic to promise increased opportunities for their victims
(Jones et al., 2007).

This pull/push dynamic is congruent with an ecological approach, which emphasizes
understanding people and the problems they experience within their micro-, mezzo-,
macro-, and even global environments. Persons living in poorer environments experience
life stressors, such as economic strain, and in order to adapt and cope, they may seek to
move to new environments that promise a better livelihood (Barner et al., 2014). Finally,
they are lured or coerced by traffickers who acquire and exploit them (Gozdziak & Collett,
2005). Ecological theory provides a framework for understanding the interplay between
these systems.


The ecological perspective also suggests other important implications. Traditional
understandings of trafficking may unwittingly imply that the risk of trafficking is linked
solely with victimization within the highest poverty concentrations. Molland (2005),
however, has noted that this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, other reports also indicate
that trafficking seems to occur irrespective of economic wealth, especially in lowland
contexts of Laos and Thailand (Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare & UNICEF,
2004). These findings underscore the complex, multifaceted nature of the trafficking

While a number of countries have policies to curb human trafficking, the notions of
human rights and social justice are not strongly inculcated as guiding principles in their
antitrafficking efforts (Barner et al., 2014; Desyllas, 2007; Engstrom & Okamura, 2007;
Jones et al., 2007; Reid, 2012; Roby, 2005). Not surprisingly, more emphasis is placed upon
the criminal aspect of trafficking (Herzog, 2008; Jani, 2010). An ecological perspective
suggests the necessity of a more integrated approach in victim identification, service
provision, and the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators as a way to enhance the
rights of trafficking victims and promote social justice (Okech et al., 2012).

There has been some recognition of the need for a more holistic ecological approach to
trafficking that deals with the health, dignity, justice, and human rights of trafficked
persons (Heise, 1998; Hickman, Christoffersen, Sami, & Trivedi, 2009). The increased
involvement of law enforcement agencies in the fight against human trafficking has
necessitated fundamentally different conceptual models than those in jurisprudence.
Included among these are models dealing with public health, social welfare, and human
ecology (Brückner, 2008; Gushulak & MacPherson, 2000; Rafferty, 2008; Williamson &
Folaron, 2003). These models enable scholars and service providers to move beyond the
legal context by framing trafficking as a phenomena that involves economics, politics of
state sovereignty, labor and migration, gender and age discrimination, injustice, human
rights, and personal well-being (Desyllas, 2007; Engstrom & Okamura, 2007; Jani, 2010;
Jones et al., 2007; Roby, 2005; Wells & Mitchell, 2007). The increasing recognition of the
complex multifaceted nature of trafficking implicitly lays the philosophical foundation of
an ecological understanding of trafficking.

A proposed ecological model of human trafficking intervention

An ecological perspective is person centered. It views trafficking not only as a crime in a
legal or juridical sense, but also as unjust oppression that violates the fundamental rights
of vulnerable, and mostly unsuspecting, individuals and families. In keeping with the
tenets of social justice, the ecological perspective looks beyond the perpetrator/victim
dichotomy to the qualities that empower individuals and groups as survivors and advo-
cates. This particular strength has contributed to the adoption of the ecological perspective
in many disciplines engaged in research, practice, and discourse on issues related to
human rights and international development (Gitterman & Germain, 2008; Nag, 2002;
Rafferty, 2008; Reid, 2012).

Earlier ecological studies of violence against women, such as those by Heise and
colleagues (1999), began from a perpetrator-centric position, in a manner similar to the
policy stance advocated by the VAWA (Heise, 1998). These ecological studies encapsulate
those relational, social, and communitarian aspects that exacerbate a problem like


trafficking. In 2014, the authors found that link between income inequality and globaliza-
tion had an established link to the prevalence of human trafficking. As such, these studies
represent an important contribution to the literature. They also provide an important
precedent for applying the ecological model to the wider issue of trafficking.

The crucial aspect of utilizing the ecological perspective, as Hickman and colleagues
(2009) noted, is at the level of locating one’s own perspective (as advocate, practitioner,
educator, or researcher) within the multiple levels of impact. From this vantage point,
services can be coordinated to address the phenomenon of trafficking and its victims. But
perhaps more importantly, the vantage point suggests prevention strategies and interven-
tions specifically tailored toward the unique constellations of contextual factors at play
within a given family, geographic area, nation, or population. This is so that service
provision to survivors is not “one size fits all,” but predicated upon exo-, macro-,
mezzo-, and microneeds relevant to their rehabilitation.

Figure 1 articulates the key concepts of the ecological model in practitioner-level
discourse on trafficking and reimagines them as a five-sphere concentric conceptual
model, as opposed to the traditionally four-sphere ecological model. While corresponding
with Bronfenbrenner’s (1981) conceptual framework of micro-, meso-, exo-, and macro-
system influences upon the individual, the five-sphere ecological frame developed here
conceptualizes specific examples of antitrafficking interventions and traces their systematic
influence upon the trafficking victim. These concepts include: (1) fit between person and
environment; (2) habitats, networks, and niches; (3) power and privilege; (4) stress and
resilience; and (5) the life course. For example, a microlevel intervention effort found at
Sphere 1, in which person and environment may involve reunion efforts of the trafficked
individual with her or his family. A complementary mesolevel intervention effort may be
connecting the recently reunited individual and family with resources, such as job training
and education, and so on through the concentric spheres with a goal of harmonizing the
ecological frameworks in such a way as to shape interventions throughout the life course.
The conceptual figure, along with examples of sphere-specific interventions, is

Figure 1. Ecological model of human trafficking intervention.


complemented by Table 1 which describes some of the agencies around the world and the
range of such intervention efforts currently being designed and applied to address the
problem of trafficking throughout the world.

As Figure 1 illustrates, the proposed ecological model begins with individuals, their
families or kinship systems, and their direct environment. The model then radiates out-
ward through the ecological systems that directly correspond with the elements that are
impacted by the phenomenon of trafficking, including habitats, networks, and niches (e.g.,
dislocations of home or work), power and privilege (e.g., gender relations, sexual and
romantic relationships, and child rearing), and stress and resilience (e.g. health, mental
health, wellness, and economic relations). The final layer, not often included in ecological
models, is related to the life course in keeping with the fact that human trafficking can be
intergenerational (Reid, 2012) and impacts survivors throughout the life span.

Table 1 enhances ecological thinking on human trafficking by delineating service-level
practices and interventions that correspond to associated ecological perspectives. Within
the five-sphere model, each radiating “layer” of the ecological “map” is designed to
correspond to the existing best practices and policy efforts in keeping with the ecological
perspective that informs the model. Each ecological layer or level and its links to policy
and practice are described in more detail in the next five sections.

Fit between person and environment

Antitrafficking practice efforts within the social sciences that involve prevention and
advocacy are often centered on victims, or adjudication of the perpetrator. While this
does comport well with the person centeredness of the ecological perspective, Herzog
(2008) noted that significant attitudinal disparities existed among the general public.
Specifically, some members of the public may view victims of trafficking as complicit in
the crime. This may be especially true for victims of sex trafficking (Barner et al., 2014;
Herzog, 2008).

A true fit between person and environment within the discourse on trafficking would
take the holistic approach adopted by Hickman and colleagues (2009) and apply it to all
aspects of the phenomenon. For instance, motivations for initial migration, age, gender,
sex roles, poverty in the family, agency, and individual decision-making are all factors that
contribute to the risk, incidence, prevalence, and growth of trafficking (Barner et al., 2014;
Brückner, 2008; Hodge & Lietz, 2007; Lusk & Lucas, 2009; Rafferty, 2008; Reid, 2012;
Roby, 2005). Particular attention should be brought to persons identifying as a part of the
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans (LGBT) community, as they are more likely to experi-
ence violence and less likely to report instances of abuse (Moore & Barner, 2017). In a
manner analogous to understanding the premigratory contexts of recent immigrants
(Healy, 2008), social workers should also be aware of the past circumstances within and
around victims’ environments that might have contributed to their being trafficked.

Habitats, networks, and niches

The ecological model puts significant emphasis on the contexts of place, space, and
community (Bronfenbrenner, 1981). A means to ensure that practices are maintained,
laws and accords are enforced, and public education on the issue encouraged is through


Table 1. International antihuman trafficking programs, alphabetical by country.
or region Organization and website Services provided

Australia Project Respect http://projectrespect.

Outreach to brothels in Victoria, emergency accommodation
and continued support for women who have been trafficked,
preventative work with young and vulnerable women, intensive
case management

Bangladesh Rights Jessore www.rightsjessore.org/ Legal services, shelter, hotline, counseling, advocacy, healthcare
referrals, vocational training, employment

Belgium Samila Foundation http://www.samilia

Prevention services, outreach services

Cambodia Legal Support for Children and Women
(LSCW) http://www.lscw.org/

Legal services, legal training for local authorities, provides
information on legal rights and safe migration to potential

Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center

Shelter, literacy and vocational skills training, reintegration,
legal assistance

Agape International Missions

Christian based, health care, psychosocial services, education,
vocational training, spiritual guidance

Village Focus International http://www.

Legal advocacy, health care and counseling, training and job

Rapha House http://www.raphahouse.

Safe house, rehabilitation, and reintegration programs

China Action for Reach Out (AFRO) www.afro.

Skills training, drug rehabilitation, hotline, referrals for support
services, health screening, peer education

France Committee Against Modern Slavery

Legal aid, health services, rehabilitation facility

Esclavage Tolerance Zero http://www.

Residential rehabilitation program

Greece and

A21 Campaign http://www.thea21cam

Awareness campaigns, safe houses, rehabilitation program,
skills training, legal aid, policy advocacy

Ghana Lifeline Foundation International http://

Peer education, vocational training, outreach, HIV/AIDS
education, community health education

India Manav Seva Sansthan (Seva) http://

Awareness raising and mobilization, networking and
coordination, advocacy, augmenting informed mobility, rights-
based repatriation

Project Aasara http://www.humanright

Identification of trafficking organizers, loans to sex workers for
self employment


International Rescue Committeehttp://

Refugee work, policy advocacy, residential program, counseling

Nepal Shakti Samuha www.shaktisamuha.org.

Adolescent girls’ groups, outreach,
skill building courses, income-generating programs, counseling
and peer support, advocacy and lobbying

Maiti Nepal http://www.maitinepal.org/

Shelters, education, vocational training, medical care, hospice

Netherlands La Strada International http://lastradain

Policy advocacy, intensive case management

Nigeria Girls’ Power Initiative http://www.gpini

Counseling and psychosocial services, skills training, outreach

Philippines Visayan Form Foundation http://www.

Antitrafficking task forces, halfway houses, legal services,
assessment, policy advocacy

Tanzania Kiwohede www.kiwohede.org Psychosocial counseling, life skills training, crisis shelter,
reproductive health education, family reunification

Thailand Sanayar-Thi-Pan Women’s Center
[no website]

Health care, counseling, outreach, employment assistance

Hotline Center Foundation http://www.

Counseling, shelter, HIV/AIDS hotline and clinic, outreach


Life Impact International http://www.

Prevention programs, intensive management, legal aid



the use of existent networks and niches. As Roby (2005) stated, “participatory models
involving the [victims], their families, and community leaders as key players are helpful.
The installation of an ombudsman office in each country to oversee governmental pro-
gress in applying international conventions would be a step forward” in antitrafficking
efforts (p. 145).

Advocacy and consciousness-raising efforts that are tailored to the specific needs of a
geographic area are often more successful in addressing the needs of victims, acquiring
public support, and influencing public policy than untried external top–down approaches
(Herzog, 2008; …

Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.,
9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK,
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

© 2005 IOM
International Migration Vol. 43 (1/2) 2005

ISSN 0020-7985

* Human Resources Development Centre, Lagos, Nigeria.

Review of Research and Data
on Human Trafficking
in sub-Saharan Africa

Aderanti Adepoju*1


Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is a region characterized by a variety of migration
configurations, including cross-border movements; contract workers; labour
migrants; and the migration of skilled professionals, refugees, and displaced
persons. Human trafficking is the latest addition to this list. Insight into the
phenomenon came not from statistical data but from the alarm raised by activists,
the media, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nigeria, Togo,
and Benin in the late 1990s. For instance, the Constitutional Rights Project, a
Nigerian NGO, in one of its reports in September 1996, focused attention on
child trafficking within, into, and out of Nigeria. At about the same time, WAO-
Afrique, a Togolese NGO assisting children brought from rural areas to work as
domestic servants in Lome, investigated reports of Togolese girls being traf-
ficked abroad, especially to Gabon. In 1997, a representative of the NGO brought
the problems of trafficking children in West and Central Africa to the attention
of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Working Group (UN, 1999).
Unlike ongoing migration configurations that are male dominated and, in many
cases, confined largely to the region, trafficking in human beings takes place
within, outside, and into the region; involves intermediaries or third parties,
especially scams and criminal gangs; and infringes on the victims’ human rights.
Indeed, in recent years, trafficking of women and children, as commercial sex
workers or as exploited domestic servants, has assumed such an alarming pro-
portion that African leaders, especially in Nigeria, are breaking the normal cul-
ture of silence to address the issue with the urgency it deserves. For example,
the Nigeria Television Authority routinely carries prime news items, special
features, and plays on human trafficking to educate the public and raise aware-
ness of the plight of trafficked victims.

76 Adepoju

The focus of the paper is four-fold: (1) to present an overview of the main
features of trafficking, its dynamics, and its root causes in SSA; (2) to review
current research on trafficking in the region, focusing in particular on the method-
ology used and the extent to which findings of these studies can be generalized
nationally; (3) to identify the ways in which governments have responded to
human trafficking; and (4) to outline gaps in knowledge and suggest a range of
research themes that could help enhance understanding of the dynamics of
trafficking in the region.


Recent years have witnessed a gradual increase in the smuggling of migrants
and trafficking in human beings to and from Africa, as well as within the contin-
ent. The exploitative nature of the treatment of the victims of trafficking often
amounts to new forms of slavery. Many countries find it difficult to control and
prevent the smuggling of human beings partly because they do not have effect-
ive policies designed to combat trafficking in human beings. Plus, they lack
the capacity to respond adequately, as there are no national legislations with
regulations to deal with the problem. The general public is insufficiently aware
of trafficking in human beings in all its aspects, the extent to which organized
criminal groups are involved in trafficking in human beings, and the fate of the
victims. Parents or guardians of trafficked children are under false illusions and
are unaware of the severe exploitation to which their wards are often subjected.
A survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicates,
for instance, that about half of African countries recognized trafficking as a
problem, and that child trafficking is usually perceived as more severe than
trafficking in women (UNICEF, 2003). There are, however, notable exceptions
among the subregions. In West and Central Africa where trafficking is perhaps
more widespread and recognized, more than 70 per cent of the countries identified
trafficking as a problem, compared to one-third (33%) of countries in East and
southern Africa (UNICEF, 2003).

Until a few years ago, little was known, and even less had been written on
human trafficking in SSA. Three main types of trafficking have since been
identified in the region, namely trafficking in children primarily for farm labour
and domestic work within and across countries; trafficking in women and young
persons for sexual exploitation, mainly outside the region; and trafficking in
women from outside the region for the sex industry of South Africa (Sita, 2003;
IOM, 2003). Trafficking takes place at different levels, including exploitative

77Review of research, data on human trafficking in sub-Saharan Africa

labour and domestic work and sexual exploitation of women and girls within,
outside, and into countries of the region. Trafficking in the region is defined as
the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by
means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion…deception…for the
purpose of exploitation” (ILO, 2002).

The geography of trafficking in West Africa is as complex as the trafficking
routes. Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal are source, transit, and destination coun-
tries for trafficked women and children. The trafficking in young children from
rural areas to capital cities, especially from Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo,
and Ghana to Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial farms, from and through eastern
Nigeria to Gabon has increased in recent years (Dottridge, 2002). UNICEF
estimates – though this is highly contestable – that up to 200,000 children are
trafficked annually in West and Central Africa.

Veil (1999) identified six types of child trafficking in West and Central Africa:
abduction of children, payment of sums of money to poor parents who hand
over their children on the promise that they will be treated well, bonded place-
ment of children as reimbursement for debt, placement for a token sum for
specified duration or for gift items, and enrolment for a fee by an agent for
domestic work at the request of the children’s parents. In the sixth form, par-
ents of the domestic workers are deceived into enlisting their children under the
guise that they would be enrolled in school, trade, or training.

The main suppliers of child labour in the subregion include Benin, Ghana,
Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Togo for domestic work in Gabon,
Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, and Nigeria. Togolese girls are being
trafficked into domestic and labour markets in Gabon, Benin, Nigeria, and Niger,
and locally within the country while boys are trafficked into agricultural work in
Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Benin. Most of these children are recruited through
the network of agents to work as domestic servants in informal sectors or on
plantations (UNICEF, 1998, 2000). Parents are often forced by poverty and
ignorance to enlist their children, hoping to benefit from their wages and sustain
the deteriorating family economic situation. In many circumstances, however,
some of these children are indentured into “slave” labour, as in Sudan and
Mauritania, and are exploited and paid pittance, below living wages. The
traffickers have recently extended the destination of child trafficking to the
European Union (EU), especially the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (UK),
and so on.

Some Ghanaian women and children are trafficked to neighbouring countries
for labour and prostitution (Anarfi, 1998), while other women are trafficked to

78 Adepoju

Europe and forced into prostitution (ILO, 2003). Ghana is a transit route for
Nigerian women trafficked to Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands for commer-
cial sex. Togolese young women are being trafficked as prostitutes to Ghana,
Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, and Lebanon (Taylor, 2002). Children are trafficked from
Nigeria to Europe, the Gulf States, and some African countries for domestic
labour and for sexual exploitation to France, Spain, the Netherlands, and South
Africa (Human Rights Watch, 2003). Women are trafficked particularly to Italy,
France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Saudi
Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for prostitution and pornography;
they are also trafficked to Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa. Senegal is both a
source and transit country for women trafficked to Europe, South Africa, and
the Gulf States for commercial sex, and is also a destination country for chil-
dren trafficked from Mali and Guinea Conakry.

Women from war-torn Liberia and Sierra Leone are forced to prostitute in Mali,
just as local women are trafficked to Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and France.
Mali also serves as a transit country for trafficking women from Anglophone
countries to Europe. Trafficking is done by syndicates who obtain travel docu-
ments and visas for the women and link them with brothels abroad. Hundreds
of illegal immigrants and trafficked persons, especially those from West African
countries en route to Spain, get stranded in Morocco for upwards of four or
more years.

In East Africa, Ugandan women working as prostitutes in the Gulf States
lure young girls from their country because they are usually preferred by male
clients. More traumatic is the situation of young girls and women abducted
from conflict zones in the north of the country who are forced to serve as sex
slaves to rebel commanders or are literally “sold” as slaves to affluent men in
Sudan and the Gulf States. In Kenya, trafficking of young girls to Europe by
syndicates run by Japanese businessmen, and of girls from India and parts of
South Asia to Kenya, is essential for the local sex industry. Kenya also serves as
a transit route for trafficked Ethiopian women to Europe and the Gulf States
(Butegwa, 1997). In Uganda and Kenya some orphaned girls in the care of
relatives are reportedly “sold” to traffickers under the guise of securing them
a better education, scholarship, or marriage. There are reports of Ethiopian
migrant women recruited to work as domestics in Lebanon and the Gulf States
who have been abused and sexually assaulted (UNICEF, 2003). Traffickers
transport Ethiopian women via Tanzania and Kenya to avoid the Ethiopian
Government’s employment recruitment regulations, especially the Private
Employment Agency Proclamation of 1998 which sought to protect the rights,
safety, and dignity of Ethiopians employed and sent abroad, and imposed

79Review of research, data on human trafficking in sub-Saharan Africa

penalties for abuses of the human rights and physical integrity of workers
(IOM, 2001).
Trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation is a simmering prob-
lem in southern Africa, especially in Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, South
Africa, and Zambia. South Africa is the destination for regional and extra-
regional trafficking activities. The trafficking map is complicated, involving
diverse origins within and outside the region. Women are trafficked from refugee-
producing countries through the network of refugees resident in South Africa.
Children are trafficked to South Africa from Lesotho’s border towns; women
and girls trafficked from Mozambique are destined for South Africa’s Gauteng
and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces. In Malawi, women and girls are trafficked to
northern Europe and South Africa. In addition to these configurations, women
are also trafficked from Thailand, China, and Eastern Europe (IOM, 2003).

Ethnically based criminal syndicates in South Africa’s refugee camps recruit
and transport their victims, usually married women from their home countries.
In Lesotho, traffickers recruit male and female street children, victims of physical
and sexual abuse at home, or children orphaned by AIDS. Such children
normally migrate from rural areas and border towns to Maseru, the capital,
from where they are trafficked by mostly South African white Afrikaans who
use force and/or promise of employment in Eastern Free State, asparagus farms
in the border region, and Bloemfontein. At the destination, victims are locked up
in private homes and starved of food while being sexually, physically, and
verbally exploited (IOM, 2003). Sexually exploited, humiliated, and penniless,
these young victims are later dumped at border towns to make their way back
to Maseru. Long-distance truck drivers also traffic their victims from Lesotho
to Cape Town, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, with the help of corrupt immigration
officials at the border posts.

Mozambican traffickers are mainly local women in partnership with their com-
patriots and South African men who transport trafficked victims from Maputo
to Johannesburg or Durban. After impounding the victims’ documents and per-
sonal properties, they are sexually exploited and abused. Victims are sold as sex
workers to brothels in Johannesburg or as wives to mine workers on the West
Rand. With some 1,000 victims recruited and transported every year, the trade
is lucrative for traffickers (IOM, 2003).

In Malawi, victims are trafficked to Europe and South Africa. Victims trafficked
to Europe are recruited by Malawian businesswomen or are married to Nigerians
living in Malawi who employ deception and job offers in restaurants and hotels
to lure the unsuspecting young Malawian and Zambian girls through Johannesburg
to Germany, Belgium, or Italy to be enlisted as prostitutes. Before departure,

80 Adepoju

rituals are performed to frighten the victims from escaping. A study by the
International Organization for Migration (IOM) noted that the Nigerian “madam”
who receives the trafficked women and girls at the destination would threaten
death by magic if the victims refused to cooperate (IOM, 2003b). Malawian
businesswomen also collaborate with long-distance truck drivers to recruit young
victims locally with offers of marriage, study, or employment in South Africa.
The victims are gang raped or killed en route if they resist (Mertens et al.,
2003). Tourists from Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK use gifts and cash
to lure young boys and girls under age 18 who reside at tourists’ spots into
pornographic sex acts. They later put the films on the Internet with the victims’
names and addresses. The victims’ parents are deceived with gifts under the
pretence that their wards would be assisted with education and jobs abroad.
The unsuspecting children who follow the tourists to Europe end up as sex
slaves to the traffickers or are distributed into the paedophile network.

Between 800 and 1,100 women aged 25 to 30 from Bangkok, Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region of China, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore are trafficked
into South Africa annually. Traffickers arrange transport for the victims while
the Thai mama-sans (male agents) in South Africa coordinate their arrival with
brothel owners. Trafficked victims from southern China are recruited by Chi-
nese or Taiwanese agents with links to the Triad groups. They then enter South
Africa through Johannesburg or land borders from Lesotho or Mozambique
using tourist visas, study permits, or false Japanese passports and are forced to
work in the sex industry. Trafficked victims from Eastern Europe include Rus-
sian and Eastern European women lured to South Africa with offers to be wait-
resses and dancers. These and other victims recruited for the South Africa-based
Russian and Bulgarian mafia end up in Johannesburg and Cape Town brothels
(Mertens et al., 2003).


A variety of factors, including deepening poverty, deteriorating living condi-
tions, persistent unemployment, conflicts, human deprivation, and hopeless-
ness fostered the environment for human trafficking to flourish in the region
(Salah, 2004).

Child trafficking is a serious human rights issue but the problems of child abuse
and neglect in SSA are rooted primarily in the deteriorating economic situation.
Deepening rural poverty forces poor families to give up their children to traf-
fickers, under the pretext of providing them the opportunity to secure good
jobs and better lives (Dottridge, 2002). Poverty, lack of access to education,
unemployment, family disintegration as a result of death or divorce, and

81Review of research, data on human trafficking in sub-Saharan Africa

neglected AIDS-orphaned children, make young persons vulnerable to traffick-
ers (ILO, 2003; Moore, 1994).

In many SSA countries, poverty is a major factor forcing young children into
work. The first evidence of unemployment came not from statistical data but
from reports about the appearance in various towns of people who obviously
had no jobs. They came in increasing numbers, and lived in shanty towns in
desperation and poverty. Street children as beggars who simply work on the
streets but are without families or homes are increasing in number in SSA’s
major cities – Addis Ababa, Dakar, Lagos, and Nairobi (Moore, 1994). In Senegal,
some of these children are forced by religious teachers to beg for food and
money in the streets. Their lifestyle makes them vulnerable to exploitation from
adults and they are easily drawn into prostitution, drugs, alcohol, and crime
(Aderinto, 2003). As the products of famine, armed conflicts, rural-urban
migration, unemployment, poverty, and broken families, street children are highly
vulnerable to traffickers. Prostitution is often a common way for boys and girls
on the street to make money, making them susceptible to sexually transmitted
infections (STIs), especially HIV/AIDS. In Nairobi, for example, such girls
may be selling sexual services during the day and returning to their “community”
at night (Moore, 1994). Girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and
exploitation. Thus, for instance, some of the young girls from Benin who work
across the border in Nigeria, as are Ghanaian children in north-eastern Côte
d’Ivoire, are sexually abused by older members of the host families.

It is alleged that some of the children are “sold” by their parents or contracted to
agents for work in exchange for cash. The dramatic changes in Africa’s eco-
nomic fortunes have undermined the abilities of families to meet the basic needs
of its members. Driven by desperation, some fall prey to traffickers’ rackets in
desperate search for survival. Irregular migration as well as trafficking in young
boys and girls was stimulated and intensified by worsening youth unemploy-
ment and rapidly deteriorating socio-political and economic conditions and pov-
erty. Most of these youths risk everything to fight their way hazardously to rich
countries with the assistance of traffickers and bogus agencies, in search of the
illusory green pastures. This traumatic development reflects the depth of the
deterioration of SSA economies and poverty (ILO, 2003).

Many parents interviewed in a study in Togo had never been to school, were in
polygamous unions, and had many children (Human Rights Watch, 2003). In
such traditional settings parents often prefer to send girls into domestic service
and use the income to finance the education of boys. In an African cultural
setting, children are regarded as economic assets, and from around age 6, they
are gradually integrated into the family’s productive process, performing vari-

82 Adepoju

ous services. In a subsistence economy, labour is a critical production asset and
children are enlisted into the family labour pool, a situation dubbed child labour
in the literature. Despite acceding to the various conventions designed to elim-
inate child labour, the practice is widespread in SSA as a result of generalized
poverty and economic crisis. In many cases, the assistance that children pro-
vide – child caring, herding and fetching water or fuel wood – releases the
adults, especially women, to undertake more urgent and major tasks. Thus,
in seasons when extra hands are needed, families see no contradiction in
withdrawing girls from school so that they can help, because all children are
considered a family resource at all times (Adepoju, 1997).

Investment in family members is made based on who is perceived to be most
likely to bring the highest returns. In most cases this boosts the biased family
investment in education in favour of boys. Moreover, domestic work for chil-
dren not enrolled in school or who have dropped out is an integral part of family
upbringing strategies and survival mechanism. Poor parents, especially in rural
areas, facing difficult resource constraints enlist their children in domestic work,
hoping thereby to diversify family income (Veil, 1998). But in the process, fos-
tered children and domestic workers, mostly young girls, may be unable to
learn a trade or attend school even when they want to because of the exploit-
ative heavy work schedule. The inability of parents to pay the fees for their
ward’s education is exploited by traffickers who lure young girls with offers of
education and employment opportunities elsewhere. In Togo, for instance, child
trafficking begins with a private arrangement between an intermediary and a
family member, with promises for education, employment, or apprenticeship
only to be turned to exploitative domestic workers. Sometimes, parents have to
pay an intermediary to find work for their children, in a number of cases, par-
ents accepted money from traffickers as inducements for the transaction.

In SSA, traditionally child rearing is a shared communal responsibility, particularly
in close-knit rural areas. As children who provide help in the home and on the
farm are enrolled in schools, especially in the cities, this resource disappears
from the family pool. This is evidenced by the case of Gabon where compul-
sory schooling and strict labour laws create a huge demand for domestic labour.
A survey of 600 working children in Gabon from 1998 to1999 found that only
17 were Gabonese. In 2001, between 10,000 and 15,000 trafficked Togolese
girls were working in Gabon, recruited as domestic servants by agents who
paid their poor parents and transported them for domestic work (UNICEF, 1998;
Veil, 1998).

Child trafficking in SSA is a demand-driven phenomenon – the existence of an
international market for children in the labour and sex trade, coupled with an

83Review of research, data on human trafficking in sub-Saharan Africa

abundant supply of children from poor families with limited or no means
for education in a cultural context that favours child fostering (ILO, 2002).
Child trafficking has also increased as a result of a growing network of inter-
mediaries, an absence of clear legal framework, a scarcity of trained police to
investigate cases of trafficking, ignorance and complicity by parents, corrup-
tion of border officials, and the open borders that make transnational movement
intractable (Salah, 2004). Child trafficking networks are secretive, informal,
and involve rituals and cults. However, normal cross-border migration is equally
infiltrated by child trafficking.

With regard to trafficking in women, the literature also indicates that women
often fall prey to traffickers as a result of poverty, rural-urban migration,
unemployment, broken homes, displacement, and peer influence. Butegwa (1997)
insists that in SSA, poverty is also the major reason for trafficking in women.
Unemployment, low wages, and poor living standards drive some desperate
women into the hands of traffickers. These women then end up offering sexual
services in brothels or as domestic servants. Poor women who wish to migrate
to rich countries may simply be looking for better job opportunities in order to
assist their families. In the process, some fall prey to traffickers. Though some
of the trafficked women are willing to participate in prostitution in order to
escape the poverty trap, deception is the most common strategy used in procur-
ing them and young girls under the guise of offers for further education, mar-
riage, and remunerative jobs. The trafficked persons who obtain huge loans for
procuring their tickets, visas, and accommodations discover on arrival that the
promise was bogus, and their passports are seized to prevent their escape. Many
are stranded and helpless, but the absence of a judicial framework limits
attempts by law enforcement agencies to prosecute and punish perpetrators and
accomplices for their trafficking crimes.

Many women assume sole responsibility for family members after their husband’s
die of AIDS. Saddled with increased responsibilities, some opt for migration in
search of employment to improve their families’ well-being only to fall prey to
traffickers. Sexual exploitation may also expose such women to HIV/AIDS.
Trafficked women in the sex trade often work without the use of condoms and
may lower their prices for sexual services to pay back their debt bondage. Some
may be raped, tortured, and subjected to other forms of inhumane physical
abuse by clients and traffickers. Repatriated women arriving back in Nigeria
through Lagos are forced to undergo medical tests including tests for HIV/
AIDS as part of the screening process (Pearson, 2002). Afonja (2001) reported
that many trafficked Nigerian girls in Italy were battered by their clients and
beaten by their employers for failing to cooperate, prompting some of them to
seek protection from the Italian Government, NGOs, and the church. When
deported, their reintegration is made difficult by the stigma of failure, and the

84 Adepoju

local communities are wary that the repatriated victims may spread diseases
they contracted abroad. Many such victims of trafficking end up engulfed in,
rather than escape from, the trap of poverty, bringing in its wake personal trauma
and dishonour to their families.

HIV/AIDS can in itself be a cause and consequence of trafficking. In southern
Africa, for example, the perception that having sexual intercourse with a young
girl diminishes the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS has increased demand for
young sex workers, and unscrupulous scams are cashing in on this situation by
trafficking young girls to the country. In the case of trafficked girls from Benin
and Togo, who travelled by sea to Gabon through transit points in southeastern
Nigeria, some were raped, a few prostituted themselves, and others sold their
belongings in order to survive while awaiting their boats. Many died when their
rickety boats capsized. At their destination, many girls suffered physical and
emotional abuse and sexual exploitation by boys and men in the hosts’ homes,
experiences that pushed some to the streets as prostitutes. Despite the risks,
few insisted on the use of condoms because clients pay more for unprotected
sex, exposing themselves to HIV infection. A study of sex workers in Lome in
1992 showed that nearly 80 per cent of the women tested were HIV positive
(Fanou-Ako et al., nd; Nagel, 2000; Human Rights Watch, 2003).


Data on international migration in SSA is scanty and information on irregular
migration is harder to find. Trafficking, as Kornbluth (1996) noted, lies along a
continuum that runs from illegal migration to alien smuggling by criminal groups,
including coercion of migrants into drug smuggling or prostitution. Like illegal
migration, trafficking has become highly organized and extremely complex. Yet,
the data base remains extremely poor and our knowledge of trafficking within
or outside the region is incomplete.

Research efforts in West Africa have focused on gathering data on young chil-
dren recruited and transported across frontiers and later exploited to work in
agriculture and domestic service and for women trafficked into the sex indus-
try. Often, researchers have glossed over or completely ignored the broader
socio-cultural and economic contexts in which migration, in general, and more
strictly trafficking in human beings, takes place. Yet it is obvious that these
contexts, in the African situation, define who is selectively sponsored for
migration, the nature of networks, the role of intermediaries, and the returns to
migration. Child labour and “child” migration for work are engrained aspects of

85Review of research, data on human trafficking in sub-Saharan Africa

the migratory configuration in many parts of Africa. As some of the studies
reviewed below illustrate, a lot of grey areas exist between the concept of fe-
male migration for work, the aim being to improve the migrants’ conditions and
those of her family, and illegal migration, smuggling, and trafficking of women.

A dozen or more studies have been conducted in SSA countries with a focus on
child labour, child trafficking, and trafficking in women. Some of these studies
are small scale, covering areas considered recruiting grounds for trafficked
children and women; a few are based on secondary, archival sources, while
others are empirical, based on surveys and interviews with victims and stake-
holders, stretching from weeks to months. Some of these studies were funded
by organizations mandated to work on trafficking; others were conducted
directly by such agencies using primary or secondary sources of data, in
collaboration with …


Sex trafficking is running rampant with traffickers becoming more and more creative to kidnap women and luring broken women from dysfunctional homes to become sex workers. First Responders are the first encounter that victims experience in the time of crisis. It is important for First Responders to identify the internal and external dynamics that sex trafficking victims display. This is absolutely essential because there is a large percentage of sex trafficking victims that go unidentified. Once those symptoms have been clearly recognized, First Responders are then able to implement best practices for mental health at the scene of crisis. Lastly, after the victim has been rescued, it is important to apply the spiritual interventions necessary for the sex trafficking survivor to transform into an overcomer.

Keywords: Stockholm Syndrome; Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome; Forgiveness;

Intervention; Dynamics and Symptoms of sex trafficking, Best Practices for

First Responders in sex trafficking; Spiritual Intervention and Application


This research paper’s focus is the acute, crisis interventions for victims of human trafficking for first responders on a short-term basis. This research paper will focus on the description of dynamics and symptoms common for human trafficking victims. Next, this research paper will address best practices in how first responders respond to the mental health crisis needs of victims of human trafficking. Lastly, this research paper will discuss the spiritual applications and interventions for victims of human trafficking.

Dynamics and Symptoms Common in Victims of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking comes in different forms such as sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and the trafficking of human organs. In this research paper, what will be discussed are the issues and factors contributing to the crime of human sex trafficking. There are many dynamics that victims of sex trafficking deal with while and one of the most widespread dynamics that sex trafficking victims and their traffickers and pimps experience is the Stockholm Syndrome. The writers of the article, A Concept Analysis of Trauma Coercive Bonding in the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, state that Stockholm Syndrome “…is a hostage situation where there is a bidirectional bonding between the hostage and hostage takers to encourage unspoken survival of the hostage,” (Sanchez, Speck, and Patrician, 2019, p. 49)

It is a psychological dynamic utilized by the trafficker to keep their victims bound to them so that they can survive. Stockholm Syndrome causes sex trafficking victims to assume that they are responsible for the abuse that they are experiencing by blaming themselves and protecting the trafficker. What happens psychologically in the mind of the victim is that they experience abandonment and remorse when the trafficker stops abusing them (Sanchez, Speck, and Patrician, 2019).

There are also health issues that victims of human trafficking experience such as “… multiple sexually transmitted infections, HIV, pregnancies, miscarriages, abortions (sometimes self-inflicted), repeated urinary tract infections, multiple injuries from physical abuse, and numerous undiagnosed or unmanaged chronic medical conditions.” (Chaffee and English, 2015, p. 341). In addition to the physical symptoms attached to human trafficking, there are psychological and emotional dynamics as well. “Psychological coercion and violence are interconnected, acting as sources of traumatic and chronic stress. Coercion during the trafficked period was measured with binary variables for threats to hurt the person and threats to hurt family or a loved one.” (Marie, Kiss, Pocock, Stoeckl, Zimmerman, and Buller, 2019, p. 4)

There has also been research conducted where a large majority of sex perpetrators were from people the victims have known which also adds another component to the trauma because victims feel like they cannot detach themselves from the abuse. Kelly L. Gagnon states in her article, Victim–perpetrator dynamics through the lens of betrayal trauma theory, “Indeed, researchers have demonstrated that traumas high in betrayal are linked with greater severity of PTSD, anxiety, dissociation, alexithymia, and depression symptoms relative to traumas low in betrayal.” (Gagnon, Lee, DePrince, 2017, p. 374) Another symptom found in human trafficking victims are the issues of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. In the article, Familial Sex Trafficking of Minors: Trafficking Conditions, Clinical Presentation, and System Involvement, the authors state, “Internalizing behaviors include symptoms of anxiety, depression, and somatic complaints, while externalizing behaviors include symptoms such as aggression and rule breaking behaviors.” (Sprang and Cole, 2018, p. 188)

Lastly, one of the dynamics and symptoms that is common in victims is the avoidance of expressing traumatic events. In assessing the narrative as told by the victim there may be a reluctance to recall the events that took place that caused and contributed to their traumatic experience because they have to relive the traumatic moments. Elizabeth K. Hopper supports this in her article, Trauma-Informed Psychological Assessment of Human Trafficking Survivors, stating, “Survivors’ avoidance of traumatic memories—one of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD —might further complicate the process of obtaining a complete trafficking narrative.” (Hopper, 2017, p. 20)

Best Practices in How First Responders Respond to the Mental Health Crisis Needs of Victims of Human Trafficking

First and foremost, it is important that when first responders come to the scene of a crisis concerning those who have been victims of sex trafficking is to not label and identify them as criminals. With the victim already dealing with the experiences of their trauma, the increased anxiety from first responders and law enforcement is first to have the perspective that the individual is a victim. In the article, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Assessing and Reducing Risk, the authors state, “…it is not uncommon for first responders or service providers to treat DMST survivors as delinquent criminals rather than survivors of a form of victimization that requires holistic trauma responsive care.” (Countryman-roswurm and Bolin, 2014, p. 523) It is best practice to not increase anxiety or trauma within human trafficking victims because that can be counter-productive. It is important to be aware of this because a lot of the times human sex trafficking victims are often mislabeled as offenders instead of victims forced against their will. Vincent Taylor, the author of Implicit Bias of White Police Officers: How Training Can Impact Underage Black Female Victims of Sex Trafficking, makes mention that the founding director of the Walter Leinter International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School in New York City states, “…most sex workers’ experience with criminal justice systems is not as survivors of abuse but instead as perpetrators of the crime of prostitution.” (Taylor, 2017, p. iii)

Once the human sex trafficking victim is found in an immediate crisis, the first ten minutes of the first responders’ interaction with the sex trafficking victim are very crucial(Christian, 2014). According to Barbara Christian, in her article, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Trauma: Crisis Management Training Manual for First Responders, she states, “During this time it is necessary to develop a rapport and build trust so that the victim believes the responders are there to help and not hurt him/her as they have been told for years by their traffickers.” (Christian, 2014, p. 25) It is in these first ten minutes that a first responder can assist a sex trafficking victim in coping with their trauma by expressing statements to help them feel safe. Christian states, “In the case of sex trafficking, if the victim is being rescued, one can say, ‘You are safe’ or ‘I am to here to help you get out of this situation.’ One can also reassure the victim that they deserve to be treated better: ‘You deserve to be treated as a human being, with dignity and respect.’” (Christian, 2014, p. 26) Simple statements expressed at the time of crisis can profoundly affect the victim to de-escalate their feelings of anxiety at the moment.

In addition, when trafficking victims are accompanied at the scene of a crisis, it is important to separate the victim from the person accompanying them. Research has shown that “…sex trafficking victims are usually accompanied by their traffickers, or a trusted accomplice called a ‘bottom girl.’ These individuals speak for the victim, actively prevent the child or woman from speaking, insist on being present for the examination, and give false information such as name, address, and how the trauma occurred.” (Chensay, 2013, p. 904) It is important to isolate the victim from their trafficker or pimp to alleviate any fear that the sex trafficking victim may and to be able to express themselves freely. Once the victim is isolated to themselves, they can now communicate their honest concerns with the first responders expressing that they are indeed sex trafficking victims and need help to escape their trafficker and recover from the trauma they have endured. Identifying victims of human trafficking is already difficult because of the lack of thorough education and training for first responders. Suppose the victim of human trafficking has become identified. In that case, it is important to separate the accompanying individuals because there are victims who refuse to self-identify out of fear of retaliation from their pimp or trafficker. Stephanie Chester, the author of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Social Work Practice, states, “Social workers experience difficulties when attempting to identify DMST victims. They do not self-identify because of their concern regarding retaliation and further abuse from their pimps.” (Chester, 2017, p. 31)

Spiritual Applications and Interventions

Due to the severity of the trauma that encompasses trafficking, spiritual intervention is a necessary component in the recovery process. Spiritual application does not necessarily mean that healing for the victim only happens within religion’s confines. Spiritual application and intervention may occur in many ways. One of the main spiritual applications is for the victim to forgive themselves. The authors of the article, Emotional needs of women post-rescue from sex trafficking in India, stated, “…forgiveness is important in the process of recovery, and it has different layers. Forgiving oneself is the first layer because only after they forgive themselves they will be able to forgive others.” (da Silva and Sathiyaseelan, 2019, p. 7) Sex trafficking survivors often blame themselves as they see themselves responsible for how dirty and guilty they feel even though they were not at fault and were forced into becoming sex workers. This is the first step in the recovery process because it is only when the survivor forgives themselves that they will forgive their trafficker.

Farah Deventer-Noordeloos states in her article, The lived religion of polish sex trafficked survivors: a targeted investigation for practical theological analysis, “Clinicians and pastoral counselors have given much attention to the potential therapeutic benefits of forgiveness, but it only recently has been recognized as an important coping mechanism in dealing with sex trafficking.” (Deventer-Noordeloos, 2018, p. 444) Forgiveness is a necessary component of the healing process of survivors of sex trafficking. Forgiveness is not in the condoning of the trauma that the trafficker caused but forgiveness in releasing hatred in the heart towards the trafficker.

In addition to pursuing peace through forgiveness, it is also a spiritual application to the victim to see justice pursued towards their trafficker. In the article, Social Justice and Spiritual Healing: Using Micro and Macro Social Work Practice to Reduce Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, the authors stated, “…social justice advocacy is a form of practicing spirituality. The fulfillment of one’s spiritual life must include engagement with others in the remaking of the world, healing, and creating supportive structures and institutions.” (Perdue, Prior, Williamson, Sherman, 2012, p. 452) It is important to experience the spiritual release that forgiveness can bring, and yet at the same time, it is important for justice to be served for the trauma that was caused to bring closure.

It is also important for victims to express themselves without judgment in a safe environment. In the article, Exploring resilience through case studies of art therapy with sex trafficking survivors and their advocates, the writers state, “When survivors can express their feelings in a safe environment, their feelings of worth promote self-confidence, and sharing their experiences and reactions in a group setting strengthens their sense of identity and worth.” (Kometiani and Farmer, 2019, p. 11) In these particular groups, victims of human trafficking are able to come together and share of their own experiences and to offer support to one another to help one another heal (Kometiani and Farmer, 2019). There is hope and healing when people come together in a an environment where they can feel safe. The Bible states in James 5:16a, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” When you are in an environment where you can release to each other the emotions in your heart and are also able to pray for one another there is healing that can be taken place((Kometiani and Farmer, 2019).

Self-Care is an important spiritual application. Not just for the victims but also to those who help sex-trafficking victims heal. The Bible states in Matthew 22:39 “Love your neighbor as yourself” meaning we are to love others to the same extent that we can love ourselves. In dealing with this demographic, compassion fatigue can cause burn out as was stated in the article, Human Sex Trafficking in America: What Counselors Need to Know, the author Stacey Diane A. Litam states, “Counselors are encouraged to seek supervision, connect with colleagues and practice regular self-care routines to avoid experiencing burnout, secondary trauma, and compassion fatigue when working with this population.” (Litam, 2017, p. 52) Regularly scheduled times of self-care and refreshment are necessary to continue forward.


In this research paper, many dynamics and symptoms of sex trafficking have been expressed, ranging from specific psychological dynamics to physical and emotional abuse induced by the trafficker. Understanding and being made aware of these dynamics can equip first responders to recognize victims when they come across them at the scene of crisis. Once at the crisis scene, the best practices concerning mental health will be able to de-escalate the victim’s anxiety and result in victims being rescued and transformed into survivors. Moreover, when the survivors become free from their physical bondage to the trafficker, the spiritual interventions stated in this research paper can occur. The healing process can occur psychologically and emotionally for the survivor to become an overcomer.

Human Trafficking Community Intervention


Human Trafficking is a global issue affecting different countries across the world. The recurring phenomenon is leaving men, children, and women victim to traffickers. Human trafficking violates human rights, gender issues, the criminal justice department, and public health as a complex regime. This study briefly examines modern slavery concerning human trafficking with its advantages and disadvantages. This research paper is majorly from secondary data source, especially on available literature on human trafficking and modern-day slavery (Kara, 2017). The method the study uses are analytical and descriptive. Nonetheless, this study concludes that the univocal approach to human trafficking is an inferior method for eradicating human trafficking. Government should adopt a multidimensional approach to target human traffickers, victim protection. When addressing human trafficking, it is best to bring all stakeholders on board significantly affected family members and communities facing human trafficking. Introduction. Human Trafficking encompasses men, women, and children exploitation in different economic sectors such as forced marriages, commercial sexual exploitation, organ harvesting, and forced labor. Therefore, Human Trafficking is an extreme exploitation form of modern slavery in the 21st century. It comes third in organized crimes, right after the illegal arms and drug trade. Human trafficking generates approximately ten billion dollars per annum. According to Elliot 2015, around seven thousand to four million individuals are victims of trafficking each year. And the majority are people between eighteen to twenty-four years (Agnew, 2018). To combat human trafficking, the federal government, in association with international origins campaigning against human trafficking, should sensitive the general population on modern-day slavery, especially human trafficking making the community aware of criminal hunting strategies to capture their prey.

Laws against Human Trafficking

. Human trafficking mutates over time and assumes new forms with the changing times. It is a global issue affecting every stakeholder in the business. The victims in human trade, the merchants in human trafficking, and the slave’s owners. For example, the India’s bonded labor system, slaves worked for money. Similarly, the African-American slavery system where blacks labored for whites as servants and slaves. Human trafficking is an advanced slave trade. Introduction to slave trade is associated with capitalist market and colonization where the imperial regime illegally acquires African resources such as raw materials and free labor (Greenbaum et al., 2018). In 1904, international organs formulated the first anti-trafficking law to combat slave trade cutesy of the League of Nations. Other legislations followed suit to abolish child labor, prostitution, and forced labor globally.

However, using laws to combat human trafficking is a challenge because the international organs assume human trafficking is the unwillingness of physical movement from one place to another as they forget that local trafficking exists. Therefore, it is difficult to track human trafficking at its pioneer stages, and this is before the exploitation begins. Human traffickers intercepted at borders are charged with migration felonies and not human trafficking (Greenbaum et al., 2018). The system should charge these individuals with human trafficking charges and so that they are convicted to serve sentences instead, they walk scot-free. The international laws are weak, limiting judicial powers to prosecute human traffickers for the correct charges. This means human trafficking is here for a long time and may not end any time soon.

Demand and Supply laws

Traffickers hunt for vulnerable migrants and subject them to exploitative, inhuman employment forms. The traffickers prey mostly on poor people, and the very powerless and unsuspecting community members manage human trafficking. The demand side is continuously eager to exploit and exhaust traffic victims while the supply side looks for appropriate victims. According to UNODC, the rise in human trafficking demands links to the rapidly changing global informal sectors, increasing criminal syndicates, globalization, enhancing transport and communication, and demand for cheap labor (Mendel & Sharapov, 2016). Therefore, foreign policies for promoting tourism, migration, industrialization, revolutionizing commercial sex sectors, male dominance, child labor, and uneven resource distribution set a trap for human trafficking. The human trafficking supply chain preys on poverty, deprivation, inadequate education, unemployment, gender, and economic disparities. Between supply and demand, impunity drives human trafficking. Trafficking regulations and poor politics will free traffickers even though the perpetrators may be prosecuted on meager charges and subdued to minor punishments (Mendel & Sharapov, 2016). Hence, insufficient legislation, poor law enforcement, corruption, and system incompetence play an important role in fueling human trafficking while appreciating the Sex industry as the driver to the human trafficking car.

Reverse Tracking.

Human trafficking is a human rights violation. Therefore, the state uses reverse tracking from victims working backward to trace the perpetrators. It is evident that human trafficking victims are both ordinary men and witnesses to criminal proceedings in recent years. Therefore, witness protection victims can only get witness protection when cooperating with the judiciary in prosecuting traffickers. Human rights violations are significantly reducing since the introduction of this law (van der Watt & van der Westhuizen, 2017). According to article 5 on forced labor and slavery of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, human trafficking is a prohibited act. The Convention’s article six discourages any discrimination forms on women and suppresses all women trafficking conditions and prostitution exploitations.

Reverse tracking works under universality, indivisibility, interdependence, equity, and non-discrimination; participation and inclusion. According to anti-trafficking intervention, the human rights framework maps essential protection on human trafficking victims and their humane treatment (van der Watt & van der Westhuizen, 2017). In the human rights approach, the main objective is to encourage individual human rights and maintain human trafficking victims’ dignity, ensuring that the two factors maintain while fighting against human trafficking. Psychologically it is not ideal to detain victims of human trafficking for persecution on offenses. The government should afford all these victims the freedom to move.

Human Health

Human trafficking breeds public health problems. Individual victims manifest a range of health problems. Such as emotional, physical, and mental abuse, rape, blackmail, and sometimes death. Most victims develop this problem while in transit. For example, the journey Phase when individuals move from one area to another transporting the victims to places associated with transmission of airborne or vector-borne diseases, the constant stress, and discomfort from the cargo trucks or ships because in mass trafficking victims hidden in containers and transported as goods (Greenbaum et al., 2018). Physical injuries from the container may result in individual death from exposer to chemicals from other transit goods within the cargo transportation. The health department suggests that the government consider combating individual trafficking-related health problems as state crime next to smoking, highway accidents, and community violence.

The importance of fighting human trafficking through public health is that it is more flexible than the legal perspective. Trafficking is a subsidiary business with zero reliable data and most research done tends to approximate the statistical figures. The assumption based on statistical figures makes it difficult for the government to articulately make policies that can successfully combat this vice (Greenbaum et al., 2018). Therefore, public health data is the most reliable data on human trafficking. Therefore, the government should derive policies on human trafficking from the health data. The public health approach goes beyond criminal laws and narrows down to state, focusing on nailing perpetrators within the community and population. This approach fights human trafficking through community intervention and involvement at every stakeholder level.


Human trafficking assumes many forms. It is a global issue affecting different countries across the world. The recurring phenomenon is leaving men, children, and women victim to traffickers. Therefore, human trafficking is a violation of human rights in every aspect, and the government and international organizations should work hard to eradicate human trafficking. To curb human trafficking, the government legislatures against human trafficking focus on prosecuting perpetrators rather than protecting and preventing trafficking future events. The approach provides weak legislation and limited judiciary power that leaves culprits walking free. Demand and supply laws that keep human trafficking alive. The government should get a counter policy against the supply and demand chain on human trafficking. The reverse tracking approach is effective with some hope in reducing human trafficking. The health department data approach should be more elaborate to get more traffickers out of the system.


Kara, S. (2017). Modern slavery: A global perspective. Columbia University Press.

Greenbaum, V. J., Titchen, K., Walker-Descartes, I., Feifer, A., Rood, C. J., & Fong, H. F. (2018). Multi-level prevention of human trafficking: the role of health care professionals. Preventive medicine, 114, 164-167.

Mendel, J., & Sharapov, K. (2016). Human trafficking and online networks: Policy, analysis, and ignorance. Antipode, 48(3), 665-684.

van der Watt, M., & van der Westhuizen, A. (2017). (Re) configuring the criminal justice response to human trafficking: a complex-systems perspective. Police Practice and research, 18(3), 218-229.