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WHERE ARE THE VICTIMS? THE CREDIBILITY GAP IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESEARCH

I was made aware of this research on trafficking. The full report is available “HERE”

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Posted on August 30, 2011 by bebopper76
WHERE ARE THE VICTIMS?

THE CREDIBILITY GAP IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESEARCH

Johnny E. McGaha, Ph.D.

Professor of Justice Studies & Director, Esperanza Anti-Trafficking Project

FloridaGulfCoastUniversity

Amanda Evans, Ed.D. MSW

Assistant Professor of Social Work & Program Evaluator

LeeCountyHuman Trafficking Task Force

FloridaGulfCoastUniversity

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We would like to thank Dr. Roza Pati for inviting us to be part of this very important symposium on human trafficking and for all the great workSt. ThomasUniversitydoes in this area. We were particularly interested in the varying viewpoints on the issues of human rights vs. criminal rights. This symposium highlights the dedication of advocacy groups across disciplines and demonstrates the potential for sustainable improvements in detection of modern day slavery victims, apprehension and prosecution of traffickers, and recovery services for victims.

I. Introduction
Nothing drives the passion and stirs the emotion, especially in theUnited States, more than the horrendous stories of modern-day human slavery. Whether sexual, domestic, or labor, the terror and horror that human trafficking victims have endured defies the scope of our sensitivities. Most who work in human service fields have heard many stories of these survivors. We have heard of the dedication of the practitioners and law enforcement officers who are involved in the apprehending, and prosecution of offenders, and advocate for victims in these very complex cases. To realize that that this may be happening in our own towns and neighborhoods, invisible to us as we go about our daily comfortable lives, is unthinkable. Therefore, it is not surprising that when presented with these stories, we responded as a nation via our legislators. Since Congress first acted on this issue in 1999, the federal government has supplied more than 150 million dollars to fight human trafficking in theUnited Statesalone. However, the most recent data suggests that there tens of thousands fewer victims than originally cited. While no one would argue that any victim in theUnited Statesis worth the support of our various systems, the danger of loss of credibility for those persons rises when there is a substantial gap between the cited numbers of cases and those that have be exposed. The purpose of this presentation is to examine those gaps, the language commonly used that may undermine credibility related to victims, and suggestions for action that would strengthen future arguments for federal funds to serve victims of human trafficking.

II. Background of current U.S. Policy to human trafficking

Since the mid 1990’s the Unites States has played a leading role in putting trafficking in person on the global community’s radar and in addressing trafficking in the United States. However, prior to 2000 there was no comprehensive Federal Law that protected victims of trafficking or to enable prosecution of their traffickers. [1] The passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)[2] made human trafficking a Federal Crime and was enacted to assist countries in combating human trafficking overseas, to protect victims in the U.S. and help them rebuild their lives and to strengthen laws of arrest and prosecution of traffickers with new Federal penalties. The TVPA passed in 2000 and subsequent reauthorizations made it illegal to obtain or maintain persons for commercial sexual activity by using fraud, force, or coercion for those 18 years of age or older. Proof of force, fraud, or coercion is not required for those victims under the age of 18. The law also criminalizes the use of force or coercion to provide, or obtain, persons for any labor or services (farm work, factory work or household service)[3]. It also updated and supplemented existing in involuntary servitude statues used to prosecute trafficking crimes, enhanced the penalties for trafficking crimes and provided a range of new protections and assistance for victims of trafficking.

The authors recognize the need for comprehensive legislation related to trafficking in humans that provides standardized language for national policy. The problem lies within the context of how the need for the legislation was presented and the zealous response to the issue. Prior to the passage of the TVPA, at a 1999 Congressional hearing on human trafficking, legislators learned about the horrors of trafficking in human beings through the testimony of practitioners and rescued victims themselves. Victims testified about the terror and brutality they went though as modern day “slaves”. At that time, Congressmen requested data related to the scope of human trafficking in the U.S.The numbers presented to them were provided by the Department of State and the CIA. The data presented estimated that were as many as 50,000 modern day slaves trafficked in the United Statesevery year and 700,000 victims were trafficked globally each year. [4] It was on acceptance of these data that Congress passed the Trafficking in Victim’s Protection Act of 2000. [5]

However, in the 2003 revision of the assessed number of human trafficking victims in the U.S., the number of victims was revised by the Department of Justice to 18,000 to 20,000 people trafficked annually in the United States.[6] It is important to note, that the decline from 50,000 estimated victims as cited above to the revised number of 18,000 to 20,000 does not reflect a reported drop in the crime of human trafficking. Instead, it reflects a revision of the methodology used to estimate these numbers. The U.S. Department of Justice estimate is based upon a statistical method called “Markov Chain Monte Carlo,”[7] a statistical method often used in medical studies and complex surveys. This method replaces unknown or missing data by making use of plausible values for unknown information. It creates estimates of what is unknown. These estimates went through an additional analysis, a Bayesian analysis[8], which integrates previous estimates of human trafficking or, when those estimates are missing, expert surveys. The data provided then are, according to U.S. Department of Justice, estimates of estimates, rather than reporting of known cases. For additional information regarding the methodology used to generate the U.S. Government estimate, please contact the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at (202) 312-9672.

Given this knowledge of how the TVPA was initially passed and the subsequent disclosure of how the numbers of victims are estimated, it is important that all who work in this field move forward with caution or risk the loss of credibility on a very important issue. The large gap in estimates may call into question the reliability of any information provided and has potential consequences for future policy and funding issues related to this crime. Even though theUnited Statesis widely regarded as a destination country for trafficking in persons, the exact number of human trafficking victims within theUnitedStatehas remained largely undetermined.

III. The Hidden Crime: Reasons for Potential Underreporting

As we heard often during this symposium, by the very nature of the crime, human trafficking is largely hidden and accurate data on the extent and nature of human trafficking is hard to calculate. Trafficking victims are often in dangerous positions and may be unable, or unwilling, to jeopardize their lives to report to or seek help from relevant authorities. Victims may live daily with emotional and physical abuse, inhumane treatment, and threats to their families back home. They may fear authority figures and are often told that if discovered, they would be imprisoned, deported or tortured. Visas and other identify documents, if any exist, are often taken by their traffickers as an addition method of detaining the victims.

Fostering fear of authority in victims is a common contributor to poor detection of human trafficking victims. Douglas Blackmon [9] compares the current issue of human trafficking to the past history of post-abolition slave treatment in theU.S. in the late 1800’s. According to Blackmon, for decades after emancipation, thousands of African Americans were forced into labor after charges were made against them through the criminal justice system. To pay off these so-called debts they worked for landowners without, or at best minimal, compensation. If they resisted, new charges were filed against them, thus their debt increased. This method of control is similar to many founded cases of human trafficking today. This form of slavery very much resembles the stories of human trafficking today.

Because of these reasons, many professionals feel that human trafficking is an underreported crime, not unlike domestic violence or rape where victims have to put their trust in police, prosecutors and victims services professionals to face their accusers in court. The fact that human trafficking victims are often from other countries and cultures that do not value women as well as being unfamiliar with the language or culture here, magnifies their distrust of authority and unwillingness to come forward. [10] Another contributing factor is some victim’s fear of access to justice because of their own immigration status. Victims who entered this country without proper documentation have a limited understanding of their legal rights [11]. According toLogan, Walker, and Hunt, human trafficking perpetrators often use victims for criminal activity and victims fear that they will be perceived as criminals as well if they attempt to seek help.

Identifying human trafficking crimes continues to present special challenges to federal investigators and prosecutors. Since the primary eyewitness to, and evidence of, the crime is typically the trafficking victim the first step in pursuing these crimes is usually to discover the victims. Yet these victims are often hidden from view, employed in legal or illegal enterprises, do not view themselves as victims, or are considered to be criminals or accessories to crimes (e.., prostitutes or smuggled aliens). Average citizens, or even state and local law enforcement working in the community may be the first point of contact for a trafficking victim, rather than federal law enforcement. [12] Moreover, trafficking in persons cases are difficult to pursue because they are complex, multifaceted, and resource intensive and a single case may involve multiple victims requiring a variety of services including food, shelter, counseling protection etc.

Federal agencies must determine whether those identified as potential victim have in fact been trafficked and then secure their cooperation in order to pursue the investigation and prosecution of the traffickers. As previously mentioned victims may be reluctant to testify because of trauma, fear, loyalty to the trafficker, or distrust of law enforcement. Such crimes may involve labor exploitation, sex exploitation, alien smuggling, organized crime and financial crimes. Human Trafficking is a transnational crime requiring collection of evidence from multiple jurisdictions from overseas and may involve violations of labor, immigration, antislavery, and other criminal laws. Victims of trafficking are bought, sold, sometimes transported across national boundaries, and forced to work in legal or often illegal activities including the sex industry, sweatshops, domestic service and agriculture among others. Despite International acknowledgment of the trafficking problem as a human rights violation, estimates of the number of victims remain questionable because of the hidden nature of the crime, methodological weaknesses and numerical discrepancies. [13]

IV. Office to Monitoring Trafficking in Persons Office: A New Bureaucracy is Formed

In response to the complexities noted above, part of the outcome from the passage of the TVPA was to create an entirely new bureaucracy that attempted to consolidate several major federal departments and agencies under one roof to deal exclusively with trafficking of persons. Housed within the Department of State, the new agency is called the Office to Monitor Trafficking in Persons and consolidates the anti-trafficking activities of the Department of State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Labor and others.

Another outcome of the TVPA was the creation of new, or expansion of existing, not-for-profit agencies that were eligible to apply for the millions of dollars in federal grants related to human trafficking. Since the enactment of the TVPA, 500 million dollars has been spent or allocated both domestically and globally.[14] Many of the domestic grants have few accountability standards, or performance measures included in the funding criteria. As a result, little data is provided to the funding sources related to outcome measures for these federal dollars. An additional concern noted is the lack of apparent coordination and collaboration among the major Government funding agencies, such as the Department of Justice or Health and Human Services in how data is collected and aggregated.

Across the U.S., over 40 local human trafficking task forces were established with federal funds however were not required to collect any data. [15] It was not until January 2008 that these task forces were required to enter any data with the Bureau of Justice Statistics. [16] In addition to the lack of accountability regarding data, the funds had very few restrictions on how they could be used. As a result, tax dollars are used to provide solutions before we know the extent of the problem. For example, it is acceptable to use this funding to purchase designated vehicles and fund special deputy positions designated to human trafficking even if there are no reported victims in the funded task force’s community. There was no requirement as to how often the task forces were to meet or even who was to be on the Task Force. The obvious purpose and goal was to establish a mechanism for the major stakeholders, federal and state law enforcement, prosecution, victim’s service providers and other NGO’s a formal way to communicate and collaborate on the human trafficking issues and cases in a particular region. However, without guidelines as to how communication and collaboration is to occur, the results can be disappointing. Failed communication among partners within the Task Force can result in duplication of efforts in some areas and gaps in others. This lack of accountability has created a huge credibility gap that is now coming to the attention of policy makers who are now reviewing their funding priorities in lean times.

According to an expose printed in the Washington Post [17] ­­ Health and Human Services (HHS) was paying people to find victims. As a result of criticism of how lack of accountability has wasted tax dollars, the Bush administration paid aNew York public relations firm 12 million dollars to launch a major campaign to train people to find victims. Last fall, HHS announced the funding of an additional $3.4 million in new street outreach awards to 22 agencies and groups nationwide. The Washington Post article cited the outcomes of one agency funded with this money inDallas, The agency received $125,000 and used the funds to increase awareness and educate area hospitals, police departments, domestic violence shelters and any other agency that might come in contact with victims of human trafficking over a year. To date, three victims have been reported.

A. The U.S. Trafficking in Person’s Report

One of the major responsibilities of the Office to Monitor Trafficking in Persons is to prepare the U.S. Government’s Official Report (TIP) on trafficking annually. The Trafficking in Persons report is considered to be the most comprehensive anti-trafficking review issued by any single government. [18] The reports over the years since the TVPA was enacted in 2000, varied considerably in official yearly estimates of human trafficking into theUnited States. The report quoted from 45,000 and 50,000 persons trafficked into theU.S. that was reflected in the 2002 report which included only estimates of females that were trafficked into theU.S. for sexual exploitation. The first year the estimates clearly did not include labor trafficking or adult males. In 2003, the Trafficking in Persons Report estimate mysteriously dropped to between 18,000 and 20,000 and dropped again in 2004 to between 14,500 and 17,500. Similar discrepancies exist in the U.S. TIP Global estimates the 2001 and 2002 TIP Reports estimated worldwide trafficking to be 700,000. This estimate increased to 800,000 to 900,000 in the 2003 report then decreased to a range of 600,000-800,000 in 2004.

B. Methodology Questions and Issues

A wide range of estimates continue to exist on the scope and magnitude of human trafficking, both internal and transnational. The International Labor Organization (ILO) – the UN agency charged with addressing labor standard, employment, and social protection issues – estimates that there are 12.3 million people in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor, and sexual servitude at any given time; other estimates range from 4 million to 27 million (DOS, 2006). The U.S. Department of State continues to produce estimates of the annual worldwide trafficked population at 800,000 to 900,000, with 14,500 to 17,500 trafficked in the United Statesalone. [19] These estimates, while widely quoted, are questioned by many, including the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which reviewed the estimation methods used by the U.S. government, ILO, the United Nations Office on Drugs and crime (UNODC) and IOM. GAO found that all of these estimates are questionable because of methodological weaknesses previously mentioned. Limitations also include the inability to replicate estimates based on potentially unreliable estimates not suitable for analysis over time. It goes on to report that country data are generally not reliable or even available much less comparable and that there is considerable discrepancy between the numbers of observed and estimated victim of human trafficking. [20]

As mentioned above, the Governments Official Report on Trafficking, the annual TIP report, which is published annually, shows considerable fluctuation in official yearly estimates of human trafficking into the United States.. The 2000 report, for example, stated that there were between 45,000 and 50,000 persons trafficked into the U.S.The 2002 report stated that 50,000 females were trafficked into the U.S.for sexual exploitation, the first year the estimates clearly did not include labor trafficking or adult males. In 2003, the Trafficking in Persons Report estimate mysteriously dropped to between 18,000 and 20,000. The number dropped again in 2004 to between 14,500 and 17,500. Estimates have essentially remained the same in recent reports.[21]

We believe that it is a mistake to continue to quote statistics that may not be reliable or valid such as those the U.S.government continues to cite based on estimates alone. Funding for concerns such as human trafficking can often be emotion-based. Just as the initial funding was largely due to the emotion stirred by the figures reported, current funding can be reduced drastically if the perception is that the issue has been inflated and the funds used ineffectively for assisting victims or catching perpetrators. In a depressed economy, accountability should increase. These data are too easy to challenge and the we suspect the challenges are coming. Considering the amount of funds allocated and the apparently disparity in how these funds are allocated almost no research has been done on the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts in the United Statesor abroad. Little is known about what really works and what does not. “Measuring Human Trafficking success remains one of the most problematic and least well-developed areas of human trafficking research” admitted the U.S. Department of State after their Seminar on Trafficking in Persons Research in 2005.[22]

Three years ago after the government downsized its estimates of trafficking cases, many state that even the new numbers do not reflect actual cases. The CIA analysis that developed and ran the computer simulation program that estimated that the new numbers of victims trafficked into the United Stateswas 14,500 to 17500 a year, which are the statistics now being quoted widely are being questioned by experts such as Dr. David Bank, a statistics professor at DukeUniversity. According to the Post report he maintains that it unlikely that this was a robust sound analysis. Others called the estimates totally unreliable. [23]

As the U.S. Government has spent over $500,000,000 worldwide and as financial resources in these tough economic times are being drastically cut and/or reallocated, how do we keep close the credibility gaps between anecdotal data, case studies, and hard concrete actual confirmed cases? In essence, how do we keep the momentum that the TVPA has generated alive?

IV. Comments from Local DOJ Funded Task Forces

The Justice Department’s human trafficking task force inWashington. D.C., according to the Washington Post report, mounted an aggressive effort to find victims. However the former chair of the D.C. task force states that in spite of hours and hours of overtime spend in multiple ways including interviewing foreign women in local brothels that it has been very difficult to find any underlying trafficking. In spite of the thousands of law enforcement officials and other first line responders nationwide who have been trained by the 42 task forces funded nation-wide in how to identify crimes of trafficking, the results are comparably small in comparison to the expected outcomes. Many of the local DOJ funded task forces are under pressure to justify their grants and find victims express their frustrations.

Orange County California

The concern about lack of communication and cooperation among some task force members in the same region are cited by the Orange County California Anti-trafficking Task Force. [24] The Orange County Anti-trafficking task force applied for, and received, an additional $1.2 million dollars. Officials from the Westminster Police Department maintained that trafficking in humans was a considerable problem in Orange County, particularly in the Asian community. Half of the funds were to be used by the Police Department and the other half by the local Salvation Army for victim’s services. These funds are in addition to the $450,000 funds previous received for the Department of Justice funded local Task Force. However, the same Westminster Police Department official, Lt. Dereck Marsh, stated at a statewide symposium on human trafficking that there were significant discrepancies between the estimate of human trafficking victims and the actual victims and that this is a significant issue he has to address. The gap between estimates and actual measures and the nebulous outcome expectations from the funding sources may contribute to the reluctance of local law enforcement to dedicate resources and personnel to human trafficking task forces and enforcement efforts. Lt. Marsh further states that law enforcement does not appear to be motivated to participate simply because a local task force has received funding. It is his suggestion that funding opportunities should be tied to local agency participation not just attending a task force meeting.[25]

San Diego California Task Force

According to an article published in the NorthCounty(San Diego) Times[26], funds from the first year of a $448,134 federal grant to establish a multi-agency human trafficking task force inSan DiegoCounty was used to train officers and improve community awareness. However, the article states that the efforts have not resulted in increased prosecutions. It further states that some area law enforcement officers remain skeptical about the extent of human trafficking in the area. The article cites concerns voiced by an immigration lawyer who has represented a number of trafficking victims. Like other stakeholders have questioned, this attorney is not sure whether the lack of victims identified is because there are not many victims or whether they are unwilling to come forward. At the time the San Diego California Task Force received a three-year grant in 2005 it was estimated that there were more than 50 victims inNorthCounty alone. So far there are a dozen open cases which have yet to be verified as human trafficking victims.

CARRY ON READING REPORT HERE”

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About Douglas Fox

3 comments on “WHERE ARE THE VICTIMS? THE CREDIBILITY GAP IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESEARCH

  1. stephenpaterson
    31 August, 2011

    That there clearly are cases of Palermo sex trafficking in the UK is surely undeniable, all be they rare among the nation’s 80,000 sex workers. What is surely undeniable is that in the UK, as in the USA, the major and disproportionate resources devoted to the problem have been deployed very cost ineffectively, partly because trafficking has been utilised by those with other agendas, sometimes hidden but more often overt.

    More of a problem in both countries, however, is the largely covert position the de facto sex industry in each is forced to adopt. By its very nature, in a clandestine industry, it is difficult to prove anything does, or does not, occur. Decriminalisation would not stop trafficking, but it would make cases easier to detect. It would have a similar effect on violence in the industry, enable the more effective promotion of safe sex within it, and be a first step towards the reduction of stigmatisation.

    Sadly, this requires a degree of political courage, so I doubt we’ll see it happen in either the US or UK in the foreseeable future.

  2. Douglas Fox
    1 September, 2011

    I agree. The government does not even have to decriminalise. Tweaking existing legislation would be a positive start that would make sex work safer and allow a positive relationship with the police to be built which would be beneficial to everyone.

    It is not the public it seems to me but the media. If the media started to tell the truth and started to question the propaganda from the rescue industry and did so without the snide generalisations about sex work then politicians would be less fearful and be prepared to look at sex work legislation.

    Having said that some politicians from both sides have a moral agenda rather than a rights agenda. Dealing with these people is not easy either.

  3. Pingback: The year in perspective « www.harlotsparlour.com

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