Trafficking Rescue Initiatives as State Violence

45 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2017 Last revised: 8 Nov 2017

Date Written: February 21, 2017


In the last several years, the anti-domestic violence movement has gradually moved away from initial state response policies mandating arrest and prosecution of aggressors. Scholars and advocates argued that these forms of state intervention, which were intended to protect survivors, in fact deprived them of meaningful choices and potentially put them in greater fear or danger. Ironically, as the anti-domestic violence movement sought to disentangle itself from law enforcement, the criminalization of human trafficking offenses empowered law enforcement interventions that could be criticized on similar grounds. This article compares experiences of domestic violence and trafficking survivors and their interactions with law enforcement. Though domestic violence and trafficking law share common policy history, the justice system now responds to these offenses very differently; trafficking survivors are often treated as “victim-offenders” who may be punished rather than protected. The typologies of emotional abuse developed by Professor Linda Mills to frame experiences of domestic violence survivors also suggest that trafficking survivors might comparably experience law enforcement “rescue” interventions as violence. The article concludes that, as in the case of the domestic violence movement, policies that support survivor autonomy and safety are the most promising for survivor protection and trafficking prevention.

Keywords: trafficking, domestic violence, immigration, law enforcement

Suggested Citation

Balgamwalla, Sabrina, Trafficking Rescue Initiatives as State Violence (February 21, 2017). Penn State Law Review, Vol. 122, No. 1, 2017. Available at SSRN: or

Sabrina Balgamwalla (Contact Author)

Wayne State University Law School ( email )

471 Palmer
Detroit, MI 48202
United States

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