develop and conduct their research in collaboration with
trafficking survivors and clinicians with extensive experience in
treating this population. In addition to program evaluation, the
task force’s research priorities included examining risk factors
for trafficking, finding ways to reduce demand for commercial
sex, exploring the tactics traffickers use to coerce victims and
determining trauma’s impact on survivors’ decision-making
and willingness to receive services and cooperate with law
• Developing better screening tools and treatment.
Trafficked women and girls can experience potentially life-threatening, lifelong physical and mental consequences,
such as anxiety, depression, addiction, post-traumatic stress
disorder and traumatic brain injuries. The report calls for the
development of more effective screening tools that therapists,
social service providers, law enforcement personnel, health-care providers and others can use to identify women and girls
who are being trafficked. It also urges professional psychologists
to develop partnerships with social workers, law enforcement
and victim services networks and to provide evidence-based,
culturally competent treatment.
• Designing training for health service providers and
others. To increase knowledge of trafficking within psychology
and beyond, the report recommends the development of
training curricula for both psychology graduate students
and trainees as well as for service providers, health-care
professionals, teachers, the business community and
policymakers. The report also suggests that APA’s Office of
Continuing Education in Psychology develop a continuing-education program based on the report’s findings.
• Changing public policy. To promote deeper understanding
of trafficking, the report urges psychologists to push for more
research funding, promote human rights protections for all
workers in the United States and advocate for a review of
immigration policy to eliminate abusive labor conditions.
• Increasing awareness. The report recommends campaigns
that increase the public’s awareness that human trafficking
occurs in all types of communities and includes both labor and
sex trafficking. Public education campaigns should also address
misperceptions about trafficking victims, educate the public
about common signs of human trafficking and educate parents
and youth about how to prevent it.
One overarching recommendation is to get more
psychologists involved in the fight against trafficking of women
and girls, says Sidun.
“No matter what a psychologist does, there is a place
within the trafficking world to intervene, whether it’s treating
survivors, providing expert testimony for legislators or
creating materials for a public awareness campaign,” she says.
“Psychology has so much to offer.”
Acknowledging the expertise of trafficking survivors
themselves is also key, says Hume.
“Despite the devastation that they’ve experienced, they are
the ones who know what the risk factors are, what techniques
were used to lure them in and control them, what’s effective
in terms of prevention and response,” she says. “They’ve been
leaders in anti-trafficking work in this country and around
the world, and psychologists need to make sure we recognize
For Pierce, serving on the task force was one way to help
ensure that other women and girls don’t have to go through the
kind of ordeal she endured.
“Psychologists need to ask the right questions,” says Pierce,
who is president and senior consultant at Othayonih Research
and Evaluation in St. Paul, Minnesota. “That’s my whole
purpose in doing this.” n
Rebecca A. Clay is a journalist in Washington, D.C.
A new APA task
force report calls for
more research and
about trafficking of
women and girls in
the United States.