Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Fighting trafficking is big business. Government programs, NGO's, and private foundations have proliferated in the past twenty years. Lacking in transparency and accountability, these programs and pop-up organizations often use a pathologizing language of recovery and rehabilitation to position themselves as experts in "saving" trafficked individuals. This paper pulls back the curtain on these organizations to shine a light on who actually does the anti-trafficking labor in the U.S. post-trafficking care regime. While Executive Directors and CEO's claim to be global experts on trafficking, social workers, almost always women, work the most closely with formerly trafficked persons. Social workers listen to trafficking survivors, the true experts on trafficking, to follow their lead to assist in their resettlement after exploitation, and possibly, abuse. Unlike refugee resettlement that happens with the support of a larger community, the resettlement of trafficking survivors often unfolds in a vacuum since social workers' code of ethics prevents them from introducing trafficking clients to one another. Trafficking survivors not only do not benefit from the knowledge and support of other survivors who have navigated life after trafficking, but they also often do not know anyone where they are resettling. Social workers simultaneously must build trust with individuals' whose trust has been profoundly broken (by their abusers), while treading carefully to not set up a dynamic of dependency or disappointment in this context of relative isolation.