Written by Kyla Kinzle, CJR Student Initiatives Coordinator
Dr. Celia Willamson is a distinguished professor at the University of Toledo who has dedicated her career to the anti-trafficking effort. Dr. Willamson is the founder of the annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference in Toledo and the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, she is the chair of the Research & Analysis Subcommittee for the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission and works as an Editorial Manager for the Journal of Human Trafficking. In 2015, she founded the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute at the University of Toledo. Her passion for providing tools and resources to those entering and leading in the movement against trafficking and exploitation has led her to create her podcast, Emancipation Nation, which is “providing advocates, and those that want to be advocates, ways to competently fight various forms of human trafficking” (Spotify, 2022).
Dr. Williamson was initially exposed to trafficking when she was growing up, although she did not understand what it was until much later. She explains, “I grew up in a high poverty, high crime area. I had friends trafficked into the sex trade, I am the only one who graduated high school and went to college.” After receiving her undergraduate degree in social work from the University of Toledo, she began to work in her community as a social worker. She was intrigued by how and why women got involved with prostitution, but the only research available was on prostitution and HIV Her ties to her community would prove vital as she learned about the trafficking and exploitation that was occurring.
During her master’s program, Dr. Williamson was on the streets three times a week for six months learning, as she said, “I was learning how they stay safe, do deals. I was learning about the life. And as I talked to the women, I just saw the need, the disrespect, the oppression, the stigma and the invisibility. I heard how the people were not being held accountable. These women were very much seen as disposable.” In 1993 Dr. Williamson opened the first direct service program for women and youth involved in prostitution in the region. She sat down with women, heard their stories, and asked them what they needed. “We didn’t wait for money, grants, or permission; we just did it. I asked the ladies what they would do and what is needed in the program.” Clearly, Dr. Williamson was passionate about serving and advocating for the members of her community experiencing trafficking. When she was asked what had motivated her, she answered “the stories, when you hear a compilation of stories and you cannot believe that someone’s life could be like that. Then it motivates you and what I mean by motivates you, I mean it pisses you off.”
Trauma-coerced Attachment and Complex PTSD: Informed Care for Survivors of Human Trafficking
Ronald Chambers ,Matthew Gibson, Sarah Chaffin, Timothy Takagi, Nancy Nguyen &Toussaint Mears-Clark
Human trafficking is a public health issue that requires a trauma-informed survivor focused response from healthcare providers. While some of the unique healthcare needs of trafficking survivors have been studied, there is still a lack of research and insight into the best approaches for the treatment of lasting psychological trauma experienced by trafficking victims. The trauma experienced within this patient population is frequently chronic and complex, and may coincide with time frames of brain development leading to specific manifestations of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD), intermixed with trauma-coerced attachment (TCA) – often referred to as trauma bonding- to the abuser(s). Healthcare providers need to consider incorporating both psychological and pharmacological treatments to adequately address complex PTSD with concurrent TCA. However, more research and a better understanding of effective approaches for treating trafficking-related PTSD are essential to better inform survivor-centered care. Here, we present a conceptual understanding of trauma-coerced attachment and complex PTSD in trafficking victims, as well as an approach to comprehensive, trauma-informed care used at our medical safe haven (MSH). Improving the ability of healthcare professionals to effectively treat the psychological trauma of trafficked persons in a trauma-informed manner contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
A Review of Prevalence Estimation Methods for Human Trafficking Populations
Elyssa Schroeder, MSSW, Timothy G. Edgemon, PhD, Lydia Aletraris, PhD, Njeri Kagotho, PhD, MSW, Jody Clay-Warner, PhD & David Okech, PhD, MSW
Human trafficking has long-lasting implications for the well-being of trafficked people, families, and affected communities. Prevention and intervention efforts, however, have been stymied by a lack of information on the scale and scope of the problem. Because trafficked people are mostly hidden from view, traditional methods of establishing prevalence can be prohibitively expensive in the recruitment, participation, and retention of survey participants. Also, trafficked people are not randomly distributed in the general population. Researchers have therefore begun to apply methods previously used in public health research and other fields on hard-to-reach populations to measure the prevalence of human trafficking. In this topical review, we examine how these prevalence methods used for hard-to-reach populations can be used to measure the prevalence of human trafficking. These methods include network-based approaches, such as respondent-driven sampling and the network scale-up method, and venue-based methods. Respondent-driven sampling is useful, for example, when little information about the trafficked population has been produced and when an adequate sampling frame does not exist. The network scale-up method is unique in that it does not target the hidden population directly. The implications of our work internationally include the need for documenting and validating the various prevalence estimation methods in the United States in a more robust way than was done in existing efforts. In providing this roadmap for estimating the prevalence of human trafficking, our overarching goal is to promote the equitable treatment and overall well-being of the socially disadvantaged populations who disproportionately experience human trafficking.
Schroeder, E., Edgemon, T. G., Aletraris, L., Kagotho, N., Clay-Warner, J., & Okech, D. (2022). A Review of Prevalence Estimation Methods for Human Trafficking Populations. Public Health Reports, 137(1_suppl), 46S-52S. https://doi.org/10.1177/00333549211044010
Survey of Youth Currently and Formerly in Foster Care at Risk for Human Trafficking: Findings Report
Paul Geiger, Natasha Aranguren & Melissa Dolan
In recent years, federal lawmakers have highlighted the importance of a comprehensive systems-level response to human trafficking with child welfare as a key player. In particular, several federal policies have defined the child welfare system’s role in identifying and responding to human trafficking involving children and youth. To be effective, the child welfare system must better understand the scope, risks, and context of human trafficking among youth in their care. Although prior research has established the association of human trafficking
with child maltreatment and foster care, little is known about what differentiates youth currently and formerly in foster care who experience human trafficking and the context surrounding those experiences. In an effort to fill these knowledge gaps, the Survey of Youth Transitioning from Foster Care (SYTFC) collected information from youth currently and formerly in foster care in two states who were at risk for human trafficking experiences based on their demographic characteristics, maltreatment allegations, and removal and placement history. When possible, youth self-report of trafficking experiences was combined with trafficking allegations in the in the child welfare administrative data provided by states to support a comprehensive accounting of potential trafficking experiences.
Dolan, M. M., Latzman, N. E., Kluckman, M. K., Tueller, S. J., & Geiger, P.J. (2022). Survey of youth currently and formerly in foster care at risk for human trafficking: Findings report. OPRE Report 2022-73. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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Commercial Sexual Exploitation During Adolescence: A US-Based National Study of Adolescent to Adult Health
Elizabeth S. Barnert, MD, MPH, MS, Eraka Bath, MD, Nia Heard-Garris, MD, MSc, Joyce Lee, BS, Alma Guerrero, MD, MPH, Christopher Biely, MS, Nicholas Jackson, PhD, MPH, Paul J. Chung, MD, MS & Rebecca Dudovitz, MD, MSHS
Objectives: National data on the health of children and adolescents exposed to commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) are lacking, during both adolescence and adulthood. Using nationally representative data, we examined the health of male and female adolescents in grades 7-12 who experienced CSE exposure and subsequent adult health outcomes and access to health care.
Methods: Our retrospective cohort study used data from Waves I-IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (1994-2008) to characterize relationships between CSE exposure before or during adolescence and health during adolescence and adulthood. The analytic sample included 10 918 adult participants aged 24-34 in Wave IV. We performed bivariate analyses, stratified by sex, to quantify the relationship between CSE exposure before or during adolescence and adolescent and adult health outcomes.
Barnert, E. S., Bath, E., Heard-Garris, N., Lee, J., Guerrero, A., Biely, C., Jackson, N., Chung, P. J., & Dudovitz, R. (2022). Commercial Sexual Exploitation During Adolescence: A US-Based National Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Public Health Reports, 137(1_suppl), 53S-62S. https://doi.org/10.1177/00333549211054082