Preventing human trafficking using data-driven, community-based strategies

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Approximately 40 million people worldwide, including many in the United States, are estimated to be victims of human trafficking — a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control both adults and children. Human trafficking can take many forms, such as forced and bonded labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation.

Awareness about human trafficking and the factors that make individuals and communities vulnerable has increased, but prevention efforts designed to proactively address known risk factors are lacking. Instead, efforts typically address exploitation after harm occurs. These downstream interventions contrast with primary prevention, which aims to prevent trafficking before it occurs by addressing underlying risks. Thus, policies are needed to promote comprehensive primary prevention efforts that address known risk factors for victimization using multi-tiered strategies.

A policy brief developed by the Research-to-Policy Collaboration with support from the Society for Community Research and Action provides the following recommendations:

  • Encourage human trafficking task forces to place greater emphasis on primary prevention.
  • Facilitate primary prevention efforts by supporting community stakeholders’ collaborative use of data and corresponding approaches for addressing known risk factors.
  • Promote rigorous evaluation of existing prevention programs through research grants and evaluation requirements for programmatic grant funding.

View the full text of the policy brief, authored by Elizabeth Long, Joan Reid, Jill McLeigh, Hanni Stoklosa, Erika Felix and Taylor Scott. For more information, contact