Domestic vs. international trafficking: why does it have to be a war?

A couple weeks ago, K did a guest post on human trafficking. Despite the fact that very few people left here notes, she is posting again. And, I think her questions are really important.

Question of the decade: why have we created a domestic vs international trafficking silent war?

Six things happened this week to once again spark the question (and its only Tuesday)

  1. The “what the US government is doing about domestic trafficking” section of the 2007 TIP Report only lists international trafficking information
  2. The “directory of human trafficking social service and legal providers” only lists international trafficking oriented groups
  3. In searching for contact persons for an internship project I only came across pictures and case examples of international trafficking or trafficking in other countries
  4. In looking at the few groups that do address domestic trafficking, there was no mention of international trafficking (domestic trafficking sites were, however, the only ones to mention the horrible situation facing LGBT youth regarding sexual exploitation)
  5. Only international trafficking has received funding in the US (as a general rule, there are exceptions)
  6. I have routinely heard victim blaming in regards to domestic victims (from advocates). I have only rarely heard international victim blaming (from advocates). To be fair, there are far more international victim advocates so that might be a matter of numbers. But the stuff I’ve heard “advocates” say either way is horrific.

So, why are social workers, advocates, groups, etc. so fixated on international trafficking? Why is it one or the other? I really just don’t get why we have to create a “second class victim”…(whether that be international or domestic)…and its not a matter of just having an agency mandate or funding. This is so systematic and firmly rooted in our mentality as a group…and funding doesn’t explain the victim blaming by victim advocates about the other group.

I just honestly don’t get it. I mean, I have my thoughts on where it comes from, but I just don’t understand why people aren’t seeing what has happened to the movement.

In asking both myself and others, a common answer is denial, racism, funding, etc. I think these play a strong role, but I also think far more is going on. But what is it or, most likely, what combination of things is going on.

If the first question is why is it happening, I guess the second one is what do we do about it. Especially for those of us who want to work in the US and internationally on these issues.



  1. There is a native american group in St. Paul trying to work on domestic trafficking. They put together a great conference to get people focussed on the issue.

  2. I am glad to see that you are raising this issue. Asides from this, there is also the problem of reason for trafficking, so trafficked people are classified as:
    – trafficked for sexual exploitation
    – trafficked for other purposes
    I think it would be best if categorization of trafficked people would stop becoming an issue, and assistance to prevent and fight trafficking would increase.

  3. Thanks for leaving comments!

    Erin, I have heard a lot is going on in St Paul in regards to domestic trafficking. I have looked at several organizations there, but did not see a Nativ American one. Could you post the name/link?

    Cezraa, I agree that the division between “other” and “sex” is very problematic. Often times, these lines are blurred. People being exploited for labor are sexually abused/assaulted, people being forced in the commercial sex industry are often used for clandestine labor exploits. In fact, there are an increasing number of grassroots organizations reporting forced drug selling and prostitution together.

  4. I agree with Cezraa about the duality of sex versus non-sex trafficking and with K about how they really overlap. One of the major connected issues is that of research– so much funding goes into looking at sex trafficking and overshadows the other. More of my thoughts are here: There needs to be some about of equity in funding for programs to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.

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