November 25, 2018



You’re listening to Episode 28 of the Trafficking Dispatch, a biweekly podcast that briefs you on human trafficking issues in a brief amount of time. I’m your host, Victoria Erdel. In this episode, we’ll learn more about a unique way to prevent human trafficking.

Last semester, one of my friends told me that Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick was coming to campus. He’s a professor of political sociology and a modern slavery scholar. I had read some of his work in a class I took, so I knew I had to jump at the chance to meet him. By coincidence, I got to meet him one-on-one and talk about his book, What Slaveholders Think. You see, aside from the fact that he’s a modern slavery scholar, I found his work interesting because he looks at the issue from a different angle than most. While many of us focus on working with victims and survivors of trafficking -- and we should, of course! -- Austin argues that it’s also important to understand traffickers’ motivations.

But why should we care about what a trafficker thinks? After all, aren’t they the villains? And even if we did take the time to try to change traffickers, wouldn’t we be taking away resources from victims and survivors? 

Well, it’s not always such a clear cut issue. One uncomfortable fact that we have to recognize is that some traffickers were or even currently are victims of trafficking themselves. Some people who traffick others only do this because they were trafficked first, and if they don’t try to recruit more people, then they will be further abused by their trafficker. Wendy Barnes, a survivor of sex trafficking and author of And Life Continues: Sex Trafficking and My Journey to Freedom, is one example. She was trafficked by her children’s father and went on to try to recruit others before she eventually escaped from her trafficking situation. While some may consider her a trafficker, she was also a victim, which shows that sometimes, helping a trafficker also means helping a victim.


But what about the traffickers that were never victims first? Well, they need help too. It can seem strange and even wrong to want to help those who hurt others, especially when those they hurt need help more. There is some logic to this way of thinking. However, there are also benefits to trying to reform traffickers. But you don’t have to take this from me. Ameena Young, a survivor of sex trafficking herself, is preparing to become a counselor so that she can help victims of trafficking as well as traffickers. After all, she knows that “traffickers are people as well” and thinks that helping traffickers is one of the best ways to prevent trafficking. If you want to learn more about Ameena’s thoughts on the issue, we’ll include a link to her article in our shownotes.


Ameena’s position makes a lot of sense too. Let’s think about this for a second. Very few traffickers actually end up in prison. And the traffickers who do serve some time often are released in a few years. That means at some point, a trafficker will return to society, if they even left it in the first place. If no one intervenes and tries to help them, they will probably return to trafficking and hurt even more people. 


Now, some traffickers who were never victims themselves traffick others because of financial concerns or because of the ego boost it gives them. Of course, neither of these reasons is a good excuse to traffick others. But it does help us understand how we can address this issue. Whether it’s a financial concern or a personality issue, it’s a good idea to provide job training and counseling to traffickers so that they have an alternative option for employment and an improved opinion on how they should treat others. In our next episode, we’ll hear from an anti-trafficking advocate who works with teenagers who are in the US prison system for trafficking others. She not only tries to provide the teenagers with educational opportunities, but also works with them to understand why the believed it was acceptable to traffick others, and how they can change their perception of other people.


Still not convinced? Well, let’s hear what your other audience members had to say about this. A few weeks ago, we discussed this very topic in one of our Instagram Story debates. Everyone who responded believed that reforming traffickers was worth trying. One listener said that since “no one is born bad” a trafficker just needs a chance to be reformed. Another one said that it could prevent so many other people from being trafficked, while another one said that it’s worth trying as long as it doesn’t take too many resources away from victims and survivors. One listener summarized most people’s thoughts on the issue by saying, while this is a tough issue, “everyone deserves a chance for grace.” 
And in speaking of audience input, it’s now time for our Audible Audience segment! For this episode, we’ll hear from Will Lamar, a college-aged anti-trafficking advocate. Let’s hear from Will and what ideas he has for ending human trafficking. Take it away, Will!


Will: Hi, my name is Will Lamar. My team and I founded a campus chapter of International Justice Mission at Notre Dame. We work to raise awareness among students at the university, foster advocacy efforts and raise funds for IJM. We’ve hosted a variety of events, including prayer services, Freedom Fast, and a football concession stand that raised more than $3,000. More and more students are joining the cause to end modern-day slavery in all its forms, and we’re looking forward to our upcoming Dressember kickoff event.

This has been the Trafficking Dispatch with Victoria Erdel. You can subscribe to our SoundCloud channel and tune into our next episode which will be released on December 9th at 5 pm. Or, if you would like to interact with us before then, you can visit our website at, follow us on our social media accounts – our handles are below – or email us with any questions or suggestions at Thank you for tuning into this episode, and we hope you’ll tune in again to join the fight against human trafficking.


Ameena’s Article:


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