by David Esarey, HTC associate
One of the greatest challenges in the field of anti-human trafficking is the misallocation of limited resources and funding. Because the anti-trafficking movement is relatively new – the initial legislation was only passed in 2000 – there is a lack of methodologically sound research showing which anti-trafficking efforts are ethical and effective and which are not. This lack of research has caused already scarce resources to be used in ways that don’t yield progress or change. Therefore, as we move forward, funding should be allocated to two types of organizations: those conducting research that is methodologically sound and those implementing evidence-based programs.
Human trafficking is a powerful emotional trigger, demanding action and outrage in equal measure. Faith organizations, community groups and concerned individuals have rallied to the cause and given voice to this monstrous, hidden crime. When we contribute time and money to support anti-trafficking efforts, we do so out of a sincere desire to make a difference. Unfortunately, when private donations and government funding flow to anti-human trafficking organizations not backed by research, initial altruistic intentions can lead to detrimental outcomes.
In the absence of sound analysis, programs that are flashy and seem to offer immediate solutions can have dangerous outcomes. Take the raid and rescue model — although raids are promoted by many anti-trafficking organizations, poorly conducted raids often fail to distinguish between victims and non-victims and can further traumatize trafficking victims.
Another danger is that uninformed organizations can draw attention away from more important issues. The recent media attention surrounding the supposed link between the Super Bowl and sex trafficking demonstrates how well-meaning but unfounded claims can divert our efforts from better verified issues, such as the use of forced labor in preparation for major sporting events.
Research may not seem as exciting as direct intervention or outreach, but it is the foundation for all effective programs (and imperative to any new field of work). Solid and objective research gives a fair and accurate assessment of what works, what doesn’t and what the real problems are. Rather than building interventions on sentiment and hope, organizations relying on facts can be confident they are truly making a difference and that resources are well-spent. We at the Human Trafficking Center see research as the cornerstone of affecting real change.
As you look to support efforts against human trafficking, I implore you to seek out organizations that contribute most to the field by producing research and objectively assessing whether or not their practices are effective. When looking at an organization, you might consider these questions:
In the fight against human trafficking, we are all guided by our principles and convictions. While this conviction is a strength, we need to move from naïve idealism to informed assessment, embracing research as the key for meaningful progress. As such, when you consider funding or supporting an organization, critically examine its mission and methodology, contact its members and reach out to other organizations to broaden your knowledge of the issue. Be intentional with who you support and your reasons why. Only by asking the tough questions can we move from blind hope to real progress.
*The fact that an organization focuses on sex trafficking is not necessarily problematic. However, some organizations incorrectly insist that sex trafficking is the only form of human trafficking worthy of attention.
**The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the position of the HTC
What do you think? How have you decided which anti-trafficking organizations to support? Have you encountered any organizations whose work is grounded in sound research?