Human trafficking is a critical social issue characterized by chronic trauma among victims, and frequently preceded by traumatic experiences that contribute to risk of victimization. Therefore, the research-based practice of trauma-informed care is a highly appropriate lens for both prevention and intervention. This work examines federal legislation in the United States related to human trafficking for references to trauma, as well as how the use of research could implicitly direct public policy responses toward trauma-informed approaches. Legislation on human trafficking has risen substantially since 1989, and the use of research and trauma language within these policies has also observed substantial increases. While the use of trauma language was associated with limited progression in the policy process, legislation using research language was more likely to pass out of Committee and become enacted. Moreover, legislation may leverage research in ways that have the potential to bolster trauma-informed practice among human trafficking victims. Specifically, research can be used to describe the problem and causal mechanisms (e.g., impact of trauma), guide “best practice” for service delivery, and generate knowledge through studies and evaluations that guide future policy. Therefore, human trafficking legislation that implicitly guides trauma-informed practice via the use of research may be particularly promising for the field.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)
- Applied Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health