ACF Blog: Centering Accessibility in Human Trafficking Prevention and Response

January 12, 2023

President Biden has proclaimed January National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. On December 30, the Administration for Children & Families published this blog by Katherine Chon, founding director of the Office on Trafficking in Persons, in recognition of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. According to the National Disability Rights Network, people with disabilities are more likely to experience human trafficking than their peers. We are sharing the blog here because it describes important strategies to center accessibility when serving people with disabilities and provides links to multiple resources.

Centering Accessibility in Human Trafficking Prevention and Response

By Katherine Chon, Director, Office on Trafficking in Persons, Administration for Children & Families

On June 29, 1988, the Supreme Court reached a decision in United States v. Kozminski, reversing a trial court ruling that Robert Fulmer and Louis Molitoris, two individuals with intellectual disabilities, experienced “involuntary servitude.” Despite the respondents using coercive measures, including “denial of pay, subjection to substandard living conditions, and isolation from others” to exploit labor, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled involuntary servitude does not include labor compelled through psychological coercion. This decision and the limitations it imposed on cases of forced labor and exploitation led to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, a landmark anti-trafficking legislation that expanded the definition of human trafficking to ensure more people are protected. 

This and other cases demonstrate how individuals with disabilities can be at increased risk of human trafficking. They may rely on others—caregivers, family members, friends—to navigate their daily lives. Traffickers can exploit this dependence by grooming people in their care, normalizing unequal power dynamics and abusive relationships, and threatening to withhold or steal necessary resources, including government-issued benefits. People with disabilities may lack access to social support networks and crucial protective factors, including education and employment opportunities, because of cultural stigmas and biases or inadequate accommodation. Taking advantage of this social and economic exclusion, traffickers can promise friendship or income before establishing control through isolation or threats. 

The Kozminski case and the subsequent passage of the TVPA also shows how disability inclusion must play a central role in human trafficking prevention and response efforts. As we continue to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our policies, programs, and initiatives, we must also incorporate and elevate accessibility to ensure individuals with a range of disabilities, including those both visible and invisible, both prior to and resulting from a trafficking experience, are protected and have access to the resources they need... Read the rest of the blog.

Shared with permission.

Last modified on 01/12/2023

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