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Out of the Shadows: A Tool for the Identification of Victims of Human Trafficking

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2014
7 pages

This report presents a questionnaire that has been statistically validated to elicit evidence of adult or minor responders being victims of sex or labor trafficking.


The landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 first made trafficking in persons a Federal crime; however, reliable screening tools and procedures have not been available for victim identification and systematic data collection. Although every State has enacted anti-trafficking legislation, only a small fraction of trafficking victims have been identified, because victims are commonly hidden and living in fear of intimidating traffickers and employers. The screening tool may be used in its full 30-question form and the shorter 16-question version, with each version having different advantages depending on the user and the context. Validating data analysis determined how well the screening tool worked, both in its ability to distinguish trafficking victims from victims of other crime and to differentiate between victims of sex and labor trafficking. The effectiveness of the tool depends on its appropriate use. This requires building trust between screeners and potential victims. Screeners must take a victim-centered approach and be sensitive to the trauma and fear that victims have generally endured before attempting to obtain facts about trafficking crimes or a victim's long-term needs. Service providers participating in the study suggested several strategies for developing trust with trafficking victims that were incorporated into user guidelines. Chief among these strategies is offering victims a sense of safety and meeting their material and psychological needs by providing shelter in the near term and legal assistance and case management in the longer term. 10 notes and listing of sources for additional information

Date Published: June 1, 2014