A Closing Note

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

No matter how frequently we confront the indignity of human trafficking, we have not become desensitized to its cruelties. Like the readers of this Report, we find many of the photos and stories horrifying and hard to comprehend. But they also compel us to continue to shed light on this awful crime and work to ensure victims of human trafficking are treated with compassion and fairness.

While we understand the many ways human trafficking victims suffer at the hands of their traffickers, we need to acknowledge that they may also suffer from their treatment by governments, including by the criminal justice systems that should protect them. It is a fact that traffickers force victims to engage in prostitution, theft, and drug trafficking, and to commit immigration violations. As documented throughout this Report, governments in every region of the world have prosecuted such trafficking victims, often unwittingly, due to the lack of proper screening and identification of victims of sex or labor trafficking. Some government treatment of victims—such as restricting their freedom of movement, summarily returning victims to countries they fled, and prosecuting them for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked—compounds their plight and results in further victimization.

Traffickers increase their leverage over victims by warning that if they notify police of their exploitation, they will be deported or punished as criminals. When justice systems treat victims as criminals or do not allow them to leave government shelters or the country until they testify against their trafficker, they have reinforced traffickers’ threats and discouraged victims from seeking help. Fear of the system hampers identifying and assisting trafficking victims, prosecuting perpetrators, and, ultimately, stopping traffickers from harming others. Wrongful convictions also impede survivors’ ability to rebuild their lives, in particular by limiting their options to find housing or qualify for credit and employment.

For trafficking victims to receive justice and needed services, governments must adopt a victim-centered approach to combating human trafficking, one that understands the dynamics of exploitation and goes beyond traditional law enforcement efforts. With the Palermo Protocol as their guide, all countries should incorporate the principle of non-criminalization of victims into their anti-trafficking strategies and offer victims a clean slate for crimes committed under duress. Law enforcement and immigration officials need proper training to actively screen for victims so they are not driven back into the grip of their former captors, but rather properly identified and given a chance to recover from their trauma and move forward.

Although the terror of modern slavery is indelible, no survivor deserves to be locked up, deported, or haunted by the past when applying for a job, apartment, or loan. We hope this Report serves as a call to action for governments, legislatures, and criminal justice systems worldwide to provide meaningful support to the vulnerable, support that starts by not penalizing victims for crimes they did not choose to commit.


Karen Vierling Allen
Julia F. Anderson
Erin Archer
Eleftheria Aristotelous
Tom Babington
Andrea Balint
Shonnie R. Ball
Kyle M. Ballard
Carla M. Bury
Lauren Calhoon
Susan Coppedge
Patrice W. Davis
Alisha Deluty
Sonia Helmy-Dentzel
Leigh Anne DeWine
Stephen Dreyer
Jennifer Donnelly
Mary C. Ellison
Mark Forstrom
Carl B. Fox
Connor Gary
Christy Gillmore
Sara E. Gilmer
Adam Guarneri
Tegan Hare
Caitlin B. Heidenreich
Amy Rustan Haslett
Gregory Hermsmeyer
Julie Hicks
Torrie Higgins
Jennifer M. Ho
Ann Karl Slusarz
Jennifer Koun Hong
Renee Huffman
Veronica Jablonski
Maurice W. Johnson
Tyler Johnston
Kari A. Johnstone
Kendra Leigh Kreider
Megan Hjelle-Lantsman
Channing L. Martin
Kerry McBride
Maura K. McManus
Ericka Moten
Ryan Mulvenna
Samantha Novick
Benjamin Omdal
Amy O’Neill Richard
Victoria Orero
April Parker
Anna Patrick
Sandy Perez Rousseau
Hedayat K. Rafiqzad
Miranda Rinaldi
Amy Rofman
Laura Svat Rundlet
Chad C. Salitan
Sarah A. Scott
Joseph Scovitch
Mai Shiozaki-Lynch
Julie Short Echalar
Jane Nady Sigmon
Soumya Silver
Desirée M. Suo
Félix Vázquez-Guemárez
Melissa Verlaque
Stephen Verrecchia
Myrna E. Walch
Cheri Washington
Aubrey Whitehead
Heather Wild
Andrea E. Wilson
Haley Sands Wright
Janet Zinn

Special thanks to Lamya Shawki El-Shacke and the graphic services team at Global Publishing Solutions.