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“Responding to Sex Trafficking Victim-Offender Intersectionality: A Guide for Criminal Justice Stakeholders”

Posted: January 30, 2020

On January 23, 2020, the CSE Institute and Shared Hope International released a field guide, entitled “Responding to Sex Trafficking Victim-Offender Intersectionality: A Guide for Criminal Justice Stakeholders”, for those involved in the criminal justice process who find themselves responding to sex trafficking. The goal field guide, which has a toolkit included,  is to advise criminal justice stakeholders’ on identifying factors arising in sex trafficking victim-offender intersectionality (“ST-VOI”). ST-VOI occurs when “sex trafficking victims fac[e] sex trafficking charges” themselves, which often stem from the traumatization of their own trafficking experiences. Such charges ignore the reality of trauma and the potential impact trauma can have on an individual. Currently, the response to this issue varies among jurisdictions, with many ignoring the trauma of sex trafficking victimization.

The study aims to standardize these variations by implementing three broad principles: (1) proactively engaging in victim identification; (2) recognizing the critical importance of including trauma response in each stage of the criminal justice process; and (3) noticing that coercion in other crimes is differently identifiable when compared to coercion in sex trafficking. Notably, the practice of these three principles will hopefully eliminate the ST-VOI complexities and treat a victim as a victim of gross coercion and abuse, not as an offender.

The study includes three pillars of research and organizational structure. First, the Criminal Justice Stakeholder Tool helps criminal justice professionals, not only to identify ST-VOI dynamics, but also to take these characteristics into account as the victim and the offender move through the criminal justice system. Second, six different case studies are analyzed to show how implementation of the Criminal Justice Stakeholder Tool could have influenced the outcome of the case being studied. Finally, legal and scholarly resources dedicated to ST-VOI are summarized to provide an overview of existing theories and proposed solutions.

Interestingly, the field guidance also provides considerations pertaining to sex trafficking conduct. Instead of explaining these potential red flags of sex trafficking and responses in a technical and unapproachable manner, the guide visually organizes identifications and responses in an accessible manner to make the implementation practical for all stakeholders in the criminal justice system. For example, when identifying the impact of trauma, the CSE Institute and Shared Hope International implore criminal justice stakeholders to engage the assistance of a survivor with experience working alongside other professionals in sex trafficking cases. By taking such a direct approach to victim assistance, the guide practically applies abstract legal theories to realistic scenarios.

The CSE Institute is thrilled to partner with Shared Hope International in publishing this guide for identifying sex trafficking victims and eliminating sex trafficking victim-offender intersectionality. With this guide, criminal justice stakeholders will better be able to holistically approach responses to trafficking with a trauma-informed mindset to acknowledge the trauma the victim has experienced, rather than ignore it. For more on the release of the guide and to see Shea Rhodes speak about the importance of eliminating ST-VOI, please click here

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