For any form of sexual violence, it is essential that rape crisis centers develop services and programs to support people who have experienced its harm. It is also essential to prevent sexual violence through awareness and training, strengthening protective factors in your community, and addressing risk factors that lead to vulnerability.
As a society, we cannot continue to drag people out of the river created by trauma and violence; we have to find out what gaps left them vulnerable to falling in, and what we can do to close those gaps for others. We have to go upstream and stop harm before it starts.
Human trafficking shares many risk and protective factors with sexual violence and other forms of traumatic harm. Sexual violence prevention is sex trafficking prevention.
Risk and Protective Factors
For human trafficking as well as other forms of sexual violence, it is never the survivor’s fault. Even if a survivor ran away, had a substance use disorder, took out a loan that led to debt bondage, replied to a fraudulent advertisement, or “fell in love” with their trafficker, it is not their fault.
As you thoughtfully address risk and protective factors that influence the likelihood of experiencing harm, you are also addressing many of the same risk and protective factors that influence the likelihood of causing harm. This work is multipronged; our social ecological model addresses violence on all sides.
The Social-Ecological Model
Prevention efforts can occur on different levels: Individual, Relationship, Community, and Society.
Risk factors and protective factors exist at each level for a person to experience various traumas.
Risk factors increase the likelihood of someone perpetrating or experiencing human trafficking, and can include: harmful gender norms, community violence, reduced economic opportunity, social isolation, poor parent-child relationships, family conflict, economic stress, gang involvement, history of trauma, mental health problems, substance use, and the experience of oppression.
Protective factors either decrease the likelihood of someone perpetrating or experiencing human trafficking, or increase their resilience if they do experience it, and can include: access to mental health and substance use services, community support and connectedness, connection to caring adults, acceptance, and access to meaningful crisis supports.
In developing prevention education, consider:
- Including information about what human trafficking is and recruitment tactics used by traffickers into your existing programming.
- Education on how to recognize fraudulent job offers.
- How to frame vulnerabilities in ways that avoid implying either blame or inevitability.
- How strongly gendered prevention models may exclude the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth, and avoid campaigns that might further marginalize youth of color.
- Incorporating information about labor trafficking into all presentations, and consider how you will conduct prevention and outreach in Spanish and other regional language communities.