Publication of issue 17, ‘Anti-Trafficking Education’


Guest Editors: Annie Isabel Fukushima, Annie Hill, and Jennifer Suchland

Editor: Borislav Gerasimov

The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the sites for anti-trafficking education and the range of educators who shape how the public and institutions understand and respond to human trafficking. From rural communities to conference halls and university classrooms, anti-trafficking education is a growing field that impacts multiple groups, including prospective migrants, healthcare, law enforcement, social work and other professionals, and school and university students.

The aim of this new Special Issue of Anti-Trafficking Review is to catalyse a collective process of reflection on and evaluation of the current state and stakes surrounding education on human trafficking. Contributors detail instructional materials and institutional settings, and what they alternately describe as intersectional, anti-oppressive, team-based, civically-engaged, trauma-informed, and survivor-led approaches to teaching and learning about human trafficking.

In the opening article, Lara B. Gerassi and Andrea J. Nichols argue that intersectional frameworks and anti-oppressive practice must be central to social work education that addresses trafficking for sexual exploitation. This is necessary in order to prepare future social workers to address their implicit biases and learn to work with diverse people to create conditions of empowerment. Caroline Shadowen, Sarah Beaverson, and Fidelma B. Rigby report the findings of a scoping review of human trafficking education for hospital Emergency Department providers in the United States. They show that even brief education improves providers’ confidence in screening and treating patients who experienced trafficking, and they make recommendations for future training initiatives. Laura A. Dean reflects on her experience leading a ‘human trafficking research lab’ at a US university to illustrate how this particular research site can develop students’ critical thinking about human trafficking and professional skills. Sallie Yea describes her university-level course in Australia to show how survivors’ knowledge and narratives are essential to teaching about trafficking. Drawing on a postcolonial framework, Yea argues that survivors’ narratives can challenge narrow constructions of slavery and forced labour. Continuing the focus on higher education, Annjanette Ramiro Alejano-Steele details her multidisciplinary course on human trafficking at a civically-engaged university in the US. She offers pedagogical techniques to facilitate inclusive, trauma-informed learning spaces with community partners. In the final thematic article, Bond Benton and Daniela Peterka-Benton demonstrate how the conspiracy theories peddled by QAnon are based on enduring myths and misconceptions about trafficking. The authors assert that anti-trafficking education can and should counteract conspiracy by actively interrogating misinformation.

These full-length research articles are followed by a Forum section with shorter pieces addressing anti-trafficking education. Maayan Niezna and Pankhuri Agarwal reflect on their experience forming a mutual learning critical modern slavery study group and the need for ongoing critical self-reflection and education of those deemed ‘experts’ on trafficking. Jessica L. Peck outlines a train-the-trainers programme for nurses to identify and assist trafficked persons. Also focusing on healthcare, Preeti Panda, Annette Mango, and Anjali Garg describe the process of forming a collaborative partnership between paediatric physicians and a trafficking survivor to design and deliver an anti-trafficking training for healthcare providers. Concluding the Special Issue, Danielle Borrelli and Benjamin Thomas Greer present a virtual reality (VR) human trafficking training programme for law enforcement and front-line practitioners.

Taken together, the articles in the Special Issue point toward the need to recognise that anti-trafficking education can perpetuate misinformation and myths about trafficking as well as legitimise carceral systems that lead to dehumanisation and violence. At the same time, critical approaches to teaching trafficking can encourage and inform endeavours to create structural change, social justice, and individual empowerment. Thus, anti-trafficking education must be connected to longstanding movements for equity; otherwise, it runs the risk of upholding practices and systems of oppression, exclusion, and expropriation, as well as diverting attention and resources away from global work for social and structural change.

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