Is There a Link Between Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking?

Does domestic violence intersect with human trafficking? Absolutely.


According to the 2009 Department of State Trafficking in Person Report, almost 70% of adult female survivors of human trafficking experienced domestic violence before they were trafficked. People who are experiencing intimate partner violence may decide to escape the abuse by leaving their home and community – but their choice for survival may also heighten their vulnerability to exploitation. Those who end up in an exploitative situation may have a reduced sense of worthiness and be so traumatized and emotionally depleted from years of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse that they may find themselves unable to escape the cycle of violence.


Human trafficking may also occur within the context of an intimate partner or familial relationship – and violence is a powerful tactic to keep a victim under control. Even the threat of violence – either against the victim or their loved ones – can be enough to make them stay.


It is clear that human trafficking is not an isolated problem. It is the product of multiple and often interconnected issues.


Our Set Free teams are constantly seeking to understand the underlying causes and deeper complexities surrounding human trafficking. Our team in Decatur, IL (pictured below), is a powerful example of this. Earlier this fall, a few members attended a local domestic violence shelter’s candlelight ceremony, which shed light on the linkage between human trafficking and domestic violence. They are also working to draw attention to the ways that people in poverty or in the LGBTQ+ community are vulnerable to exploitation. 



But we  must go even deeper than that. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking are symptoms of deeper problems. The real, underlying problem is that humans are broken. Relationships are unhealthy, values are distorted, and so communities become fragmented and and unjust.


Domestic violence is all about wrong relationship.
It’s about coercion and control.
It’s about human brokenness.
It’s about sin.


What, then, is the solution?


We must start with healing community. In order to end slavery, we need to change the culture and challenge the values of society that justify exploitation. Yes, we must compassionately serve people living at the margins. Yes, we must seek change in legal, economic, and social welfare systems. But real transformation will come from the most basic level of human relationships and values. It starts with how we see and treat each other.


The mission of the Set Free Movement is not only to reduce vulnerabilities, create new futures, and end slavery. Our ultimate vision is to help create shalom.
Shalom is hope, healing, flourishing, forgiveness, abundance, peace, salvation, reconciliation, and grace.
It is dwelling in peace with God, with self, with other people, and with nature.
It is the end of the journey begun in reconciliation.
It is something we are all called to participate in.

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