From Prostitution to Sex Trafficking: Dilemmas of Victim Service Workers Helping Chinese Immigrant Women at the Courts
Date of Degree
Pyong Gap Min
Criminology | Gender and Sexuality | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Sociology
prostitution, sex trafficking, victim service workers, Chinese immigrant women, Human trafficking Intervention Courts, victimhood, sex work
This study aims to explore the policy ambivalence towards commercial sex trade, resulted by prostitution laws and anti-trafficking policies in the United States. It focuses on Chinese immigrant women and those who served them in the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts (the HTICs) in New York City. Specifically, it investigates the process of Chinese immigrant women becoming potential “victims” of sex trafficking from the perspectives of the service workers, the social workers and the public defenders. Though research on human trafficking seems to be exploding for the past decades since the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, little is known about the perspectives and practices of frontline workers who serve “victims,” particularly immigrant women of color. With the interviews and court observations, my research interrogates the following questions: How do the service workers view their clients as potential victims, who are also defendants in the criminal justice system? Do they think they are mostly victims of sex trafficking? Or do they think the immigrant women choose the industry willingly? What might be the gap between the well-intentioned policies and the practices of frontline service workers who are implementing them?
This dissertation not only asks the above questions and but also embed them further in the context of the service workers’ organizations and work structures. It begins by challenging the victimhood assumed by anti-trafficking policies, particularly in the case of Chinese immigrant women working in massage parlors. Then it grounds its discussions in how the service workers’ perspectives might be shaped or constrained by their work structures as well as the larger contexts of the organizations they work for. Some of the key findings of this dissertation are: 1) sex trafficking should be redefined or reexamined with a more migrant worker-oriented framework. 2) The victim service workers’ views on victims or victimhood exhibit a wide spectrum, yet their stances on decriminalization of sex work differ from each other. In addition, the differences among them might not necessarily be translate into social actions. 3) How the workers view, think, and feel about helping their Chinese clients could not be separate from their work structures. Based on these findings, this study thus suggests the policy implications to include the workers’ perspectives on related issues by improving their working conditions.
Liao, Yen-Chiao, "From Prostitution to Sex Trafficking: Dilemmas of Victim Service Workers Helping Chinese Immigrant Women at the Courts" (2023). CUNY Academic Works.
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