Anti-trafficking laws emerge from a complex historical context, shaped in no small part by public perception of this highly complex problem. This Article explores and questions the headlines and examples that drove anti-trafficking reforms over the past century. These "trafficking narratives" have stimulated and shaped the response to trafficking both globally and domestically and have powerful implications for the evolving framework of protection and punishment. Specifically, this Article argues that the roles of "victims," "offenders," and "rescuers" serve as proxies for racialized and gendered assumptions about trafficking, which in turn are reflected in anti-trafficking law and enforcement. This Article builds on legal scholarship focused on trafficking victims to consider how public understanding of offenders have unintended consequences in rendering victims-and indeed, entire communities-suspect. It argues that these stark narratives further aggressive, carceral responses to human trafficking as a way of bringing offenders to justice and rescuing victims even though the distinction between victims and offenders is not always clear. It concludes that advocates should reconsider the use of victim narratives in advancing anti-trafficking causes, particularly in association with criminal justice responses.
Law | Law and Society
Sabrina Balmgamwalla, Trafficking in Narratives: Conceptualizing and Recasting Victims, Offenders, and Rescuers in the War on Human Trafficking, 94 Denv. L. Rev. 1, 42 (2016)