Human trafficking is anything but a one-sided issue.
La Strada Foundation defines it as “an issue of migration, of organized crime, of prostitution, of morality, of human rights, of violence, of gender equality, and of economics”, emphasizing the fact that it’s a major- and majorly misunderstood problem across the globe. Human sex trafficking is a widespread practice used to exploit people- (the majority being women and children) in the commercial sex trade, often through forced prostitution. The worldwide sex trade is a largely underground, multi-billion dollar industry that is inextricably linked to the feminization of poverty. In addition to adults, UNICEF suggests that as many as two million children are also subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade.
As social workers know, there’s often overlap between the local and global, the personal and political, the micro and macro practice spheres-- and sex trafficking is a prime example that falls into all of these categories.
In the context of social work, it is important for practitioners to be knowledgeable about global sex trafficking from both micro and macro practice perspectives. Since the social work profession is committed to poverty reduction, empowering vulnerable populations, and eliminating gender-based oppression, it is imperative to recognize that human trafficking and the international sex trade encompass issues that violate the principles of social justice and human dignity. The National Association of Social Workers promotes a professional mission of enhancing human well-being and devoting “particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty”, which largely represents the population of human trafficking victims.
Since we often forget that such internationals crises directly affect our local client base, it's important to remember that there are trafficking victims in and around where we live-- the United States is not exempt by any means. I'd encourage you to read up on the issue, starting with a helpful study/report compiled by the Coalition Against Trafficking In Women, entitled Sex Trafficking of Women in the United States, which focuses on international and domestic trends, with discussion of the issue in each region across the country.
So, what role can social workers play? On a micro level, social workers involved in clinical settings may serve and counsel victims as clients who are dealing with trauma, depression, suicidal tendencies, or a host of other mental health issues. Micro practitioners may also play a significant role in seeking ways to meet the basic needs of trafficking victim clients, through public benefits, housing, food, etc..
On the macro level, social workers can work to reduce and prevent trafficking through advocacy, community organizing, program development and evaluation, and collaboration with agencies on local, national, and global levels to build coalitions to address human trafficking.
And, on that note-- for Connecticut based social workers- here are some great organizations and resources that focus on human trafficking (services and/or advocacy) in the region:
Love146- New Haven, CT
The Paul and Lisa Project- Westbrook, CT
Blog/Resource List- Modern Day Slavery CT
*image from www.adrants.com