Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking: Advocacy at the Intersections

October 31, 2019

By Chic Dabby, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence Visit disclaimer page

During October, we simultaneously commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the 35th anniversary of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). The overlap of these events calls our attention to the complex intersection of domestic violence and human trafficking.

“There is a marked overlap in the pattern of behaviors that both abusers and traffickers use to exert power and control over a victim,” according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence Visit disclaimer page (NNEDV). Domestic violence perpetrators often use the same power and control tactics as traffickers to groom and control their victims, including psychological manipulation, physical abuse, financial control, substance abuse coercion, and sexual violence, which can include forcing victims to participate in pornography and sharing images.

Domestic violence and human trafficking are exacerbated by the historic normalization of violence against women and girls, but domestic violence and human trafficking also deeply impact men and boys. When domestic violence in intimate relationships includes trafficking, it presents a double victimization. Victims are most often trapped in sex trafficking, but can also experience labor trafficking including forced work on farms or orchards, in family-owned restaurants, mom-and-pop businesses, and begging rings. With domestic violence, the abuse happens in private; with trafficking, it sometimes happens in public, elevating the dangers survivors are exposed to.

Many people who experience domestic violence and trafficking are subject to an ongoing cycle of trauma. When partners behave abusively, they undermine the trust in a relationship, which makes their victims become more vulnerable to emotional or financial exploitation. This in turn exposes them to further victimization by intimates and strangers.

As a result of these similarities, victims of domestic violence and trafficking require the same kinds of trauma-informed services such as safety planning, housing stability, health care, substance use disorder treatment, mental health services, and employment to achieve economic security, self-sufficiency, healing, and well-being.

At our national organization, the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, which is funded in part by grants from ACYF’s Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, we clearly see the connection between these two types of violence. We share this view with many community-based-organizations that address domestic violence in Asian communities, which started serving trafficking survivors and their families in the mid-1990s. Those communities recognized the need for culturally specific, in-language programming that provides shelter, housing, legal, and social services. In 2017, 35% of programs for Asian domestic violence survivors addressed international trafficking and 22% addressed Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST).

This is a success story that other communities can replicate. Our most vulnerable adults, children, and youth require it.

Resources from the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence Visit disclaimer page :