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date: 20 April 2024

Human Trafficking: Women, Children, and Victim-Offender Overlaplocked

Human Trafficking: Women, Children, and Victim-Offender Overlaplocked

  • Alexis A. AronowitzAlexis A. AronowitzCriminology, University College Utrecht
  •  and Mounia ChmaitillyMounia ChmaitillyIndependent Scholar


Human trafficking involves exploitation in prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor, domestic service, and for the purpose of organ removal. The dominant narrative in human trafficking discourse on victims is that of “a young woman and naïve innocent lured or deceived into a life of lurid horror from which escape is nearly impossible,” according to Jo Doezema. This conflicts with the reality of victims who may have exercised agency and been voluntarily involved in the initial stages of the process or those agreeing to work in prostitution. Identifying victims of human trafficking is complex when their very existence in a country as undocumented migrants or their forced participation in activities deemed illegal (prostitution, participation in armed conflict or child soldiering, or criminal offenses) results in their being criminalized rather than protected.

The existence of prior victims becoming traffickers, particularly in the sexual exploitation of other women, has been documented by numerous researchers. Here, and in other situations where victims are forced to participate in criminal activities, the victim-offender overlap becomes blurred.

This presents a number of ethical and operational problems, in terms of how we recognize victims of human trafficking and how we discern them from offenders. Based upon a number of case studies involving women and children forced into prostitution, participation in armed conflict and terrorism, and criminal activities, the reader begins to understand the complexities of the victim-offender overlap and what measures are available to identify and protect victims of human trafficking from criminal prosecution.


  • International Crime

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