Victims With Unique Consideration

Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking in Indian Country.

Through the legacy of European colonization, Native women have been subjected to sex slavery and other demeaning commercialized sexual treatment.

Although many people may believe that this maltreatment ended a hundred years ago, it persists today in the form of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is commonly understood to require movement of the victim—that is, knowingly transporting the victim through coercion, often threatening or using violence. However, most contemporary legal definitions do not require physical movement of the victim, but instead there must only be force, fraud, enticement, or abuse of power.

Native women, especially urban Indian populations, have fallen prey to sex trafficking at disproportionately high rates. One reason for this over representation is that Native women and girls often suffer from risk factors which social scientists have identified as potential identifying links to future prostitution.  Alcohol abuse, substance abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and poverty are all factors which potentially lead to prostitution. According to statistics, Native women experience these risk factors at a higher rate than the general population.

There are also community-based factors which lead to the heightened victimization of Native women.  Because many perpetrators perceive that laws on reservations are not enforced, many reservations have become hunting grounds for pimps and gangs.  The pimps and gangs are able to remove the victim from the reservation and force the victim into prostitution, frequently without any criminal or civil consequences.

At this time, most of the evidence of Native women's involvement in human trafficking is anecdotal. For example, a study in Minneapolis suggests that 24% of women on probation for prostitution in North Minneapolis are Native women.  Native women only comprise 2.2% of the general population of Minneapolis. Further, a study in Alaska showed that 33% of the trafficked and sexually exploited women in Anchorage were Native; however, Native women only compose 8% of Anchorage's general population. These studies are alarming and suggest that Native women are being trafficked at a much higher rate than the general population. 

If a victim advocate or service provider comes into contact with a trafficking a victim, it is of the utmost importance that the advocate does not blame the victim for her situation.  Sensitivity and understanding are the charge of the day. Responses such as "this is a decision you made", will be devastating to a trafficking victim and will discourage her from seeking further help.  Regardless of the advocate's personal views on prostitution or what types of behavior leads to one becoming a prostitute, the advocate must treat the trafficking victim as a victim of a sex crime.

Human Trafficking Documents

Gaps in Reporting Human Trafficking Incidents Result in Significant Undercounting | National Institute of Justice:

Crime statistics on human trafficking are only as solid as the crime data informing them. Recent NIJ-supported research reveals that labor and sex trafficking data appearing in the FBI’s national Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program may significantly understate the extent of human trafficking crimes in the United States.

Before this, there had been no research on the validity of UCR data on human trafficking, the researchers noted. An objective of the study was to advance understanding of how accurately reporting of human trafficking crimes reflects the true incidence of crime in a community.

Sex Trafficking: Current Trends in Technology:

Gain new information on how technology (e.g., cell phones, phone chat lines, social networking sites, and internet advertisements) is used to seduce, lure, and control child victims of sex trafficking. Learn how to develop successful investigative techniques to proactively identify and locate child victims and corroborate the technology facilitated commercial sexual exploitation investigation. Pitfalls and challenges to these investigations will be identified and examined. Case studies will be used to facilitate the discussion.

Prosecuting Child Sex Trafficking Cases:

Describe how a team approach to investigations allow all members of a multidisciplinary team to work together to investigate cases involving child sex trafficking, and gather the evidence necessary to make a successful case. Discuss and identify charging decisions, trial preparation, accomplice testimony, defense strategies, and witness preparation.

Understanding Trauma Bonds Between Traffickers and Their Victims:

Trauma bonding is a counter-intuitive phenomenon in which a victim bonds and develops strong positive feelings toward his or her abuser. These bonds are common among sex trafficking victims and affect their ability to identify their own victimization, cooperate with law enforcement investigations, and refrain from going back into the life once they have left. This webinar will examine the formation of these bonds between traffickers and their victims through case examples, videos, and discussion. Strategies for breaking these bonds and helping victims psychologically separate from their abusers will also be discussed.

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*NICCSA is a project of the Southwest Center for Law and Policy ( This project is supported by Grant No. 2017-SA-AX-K001, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.