Power in Community: The Cooperative Model as an Empowering Space of Refuge, Agency, and Support for Survivors of Human Trafficking




Kapuria, Nishtha

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Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery where traffickers use force, fraud, and coercion to control another person into engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor and services against her or his will. The current rescue model is flawed because it fails to meet the basic needs of survivors, resulting in the common occurrence of re-victimization post-rescue when survivors voluntarily return to their traffickers. An examination of the issue showed that the current rescue model fails to meet the basic needs of refuge, agency, and support. I hypothesized that cooperative living could be a potential solution that provides all three. After extensive research into the background and current models of cooperative living, I tie the Rochdale Principles, which have guided co-ops since the 1800s, to the three core needs and offer recommendations for an adapted cooperative model that is modified for survivors of human trafficking, along with ideas for future research and steps towards actualization. Cooperatives have long been at the center of reformative justice movements by redistributing power to marginalized communities, like survivors of human trafficking who struggle to successfully re-integrate back into society. Co-ops can offer them a safe and consistent refuge, the ability to regain their agency, and a support system that offers them the chance at family beyond biology.


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