Intersection between Domestic Violence (DV) and Human Trafficking

By Shima Rostami, Ed.D., Executive Director, Gateway Human Trafficking

Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, even death. The devastating physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime[1].

As social distancing and layoff continues, and so many people have to stay at home and/or work from home, in some regions, the number of calls to the Domestic Violence (DV) Hotline Number have dropped by more than 50%[2]. Experts in the field know that rates of DV have not decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather victims have been unable to safely connect with services. On a typical day, in normal time, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide[3].

People of all races, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, socioeconomic classes, and religions experience DV. However, such violence has a disproportionate effect on communities of color and other marginalized groups. Economic instability, unsafe housing, neighborhood violence, and lack of safe and stable child care and social support can worsen already tenuous situations[4].

Here are some facts about DV published by National Coalition against Domestic Violence[5]:

One in 4 women and one in 10 men experience Intimate partner violence (IPV), and violence can take various forms: it can be physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological[6].

1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.

1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.

1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed[7].

19% of domestic violence involves a weapon[8].

The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%[9].

Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior[10].

1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime[11].

Almost half of female (46.7%) and male (44.9%) victims of rape in the United States were raped by an acquaintance. Of these, 45.4% of female rape victims and 29% of male rape victims were raped by an intimate partner[12].

19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime[13].

60.8% of female stalking victims and 43.5% men reported being stalked by a current or former intimate partner[14].

1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence[15].

What is the link between Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking can occur alongside domestic violence, particularly when other family members direct the forced sex or labor. Traffickers may use the victim's fear of retaliation by his/her community or extended family as a form of coercion[16].

As UNICEF stated[17], Human trafficking takes on a variety of forms, and may intersect with domestic violence in multiple ways. For example, when an individual is trafficked by an intimate partner, family member, or other member of the household, domestic violence often also occurs. Additionally, domestic violence at home may become a 'push factor' that causes someone to become vulnerable to trafficking. Even their definitions have similarities (listed below), including overlapping forms of experienced violence and abuse.


Human trafficking is defined using an "A-M-P Model," meaning that it is the:

· Act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person;

· Through the means of threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of another individual;

· For the purpose of exploitation, including sexual exploitation, forced labor, or other forms of involuntary servitude.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines domestic violence as:

"a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone."

The Polaris Projects' “Human Trafficking Power and Control Wheel” (below) describes how traffickers’ approach to vulnerable people to maintain influence over a victim. This model was adapted from research on domestic violence and highlights shared experiences of domestic violence and trafficking survivors.

This wheel was adapted from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project’s Duluth Model Power and Control Wheel, available at www.theduluthmodel.org Polaris Project | P.O. Box 53315, Washington, DC 20009 | Tel: 202.745.1001 | www.PolarisProject.org | Info@PolarisProject.org


[1] - “What Is Domestic Violence?”, https://ncadv.org/learn-more [2] - Fielding S. In quarantine with an abuser: surge in domestic violence reports linked to coronavirus. The Guardian. April 3, 2020 (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/03/coronavirus-quarantine-abuse-domestic-violence

[3] - https://nnedv.org/downloads/Census/DVCounts2013/DVCounts13_NatlSummary.pdf [4] - “A Pandemic within a Pandemic — Intimate Partner Violence during Covid-19”, Megan L. Evans, M.D., M.P.H., Margo Lindauer, J.D., and Maureen E. Farrell, M.D., September 16, 2020, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2024046, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2024046 [5] -https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS [6] - Smith SG, Zhang X, Basile KC, et al. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2015 data brief — updated release. Atlanta: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018 (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf. opens in new tab). [7] - CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf [8] - U.S. Department of Justice Report; https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ndv0312.pdf [9] - Jacquelyn C. Campbell et al., “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results from a Multisite Case Control Study”, Am J Public Health. 2003 July; 93(7): 1089–1097. doi: 10.2105/ajph.93.7.1089, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447915/ [10] - U.S. Department of Justice, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ndv0312.pdf

[11] - CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf [12] - CDC, “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization — National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey”, September 5, 2014 / 63(SS08);1-18, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6308a1.htm [13] - CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf [14] - CDC, “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization — National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey”, September 5, 2014 / 63(SS08);1-18, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6308a1.htm [15] - U.S Department of Justice, https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/232272.pdf

[16] - “Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence Fact Sheet”, https://www.htlegalcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/Human-Trafficking-and-Domestic-Violence-Fact-Sheet.pdf [17] - UNICEF USA, https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/domestic-violence-and-human-trafficking/33601

64 views0 comments