Friday, May 6, 2011

Aftercare Services for International Sex Trafficking Survivors

Increasingly, I've been hearing from human service providers in North Carolina communities that they are being asked to offer help to international sex trafficking survivors who have been rescued or escaped from traffickers. These providers include child protection workers, domestic violence advocates, sexual assault advocates, as well as social workers in many settings (e.g., health care, mental health, substance abuse). These providers also describe the challenge of trying their best to help vulnerable trafficking survivors with little guidance about best practices. Providers want to help survivors to recover and live safe, independent lives. However, providers are not always certain about what services to offer because survivors' problems are so complex and traumas so severe.

To help address these important information needs, Natalie Johns and I conducted a research study. This research was recently published in the journal Trauma, Violence and Abuse. You can find the article abstract here and download the article here.

Here I want to mention that when we worked on this research, Natalie was a graduate student in the UNC at Chapel Hill Schools of Public Health and Social Work. Natalie's interest in and passion about this topic helped to galvanize my own interest in and commitment to the issue of sex trafficking. So, this research also shows how creative and productive collaborations between faculty and students can be.

For this study, Natalie and I systematically reviewed and synthesized 20 documents addressing the needs of and services for international survivors of sex trafficking into the United States. Through this work, we found that trafficking survivors need a continuum of aftercare services to address their changing needs as they move from initial freedom to recovery and independence. From these research findings, we created a service delivery framework to help providers with developing programs for survivors. We hope that this framework will be useful for human service providers throughout the United States who are trying to develop new programs for trafficking survivors in their communities.

Our research findings also showed the many challenges human service providers will face in developing such programs. For example, we need increased policy attention about how best to fund all the aftercare services that trafficking survivors will need. Our study also showed how little research attention has been given to evaluating existing aftercare service delivery programs. We also encourage anti-trafficking advocates, service providers, and policy makers to collaborate with researchers to evaluate aftercare programs whenever possible.

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