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School researchers awarded $390K grant from National Institutes of Justice

Professor Rebecca Macy, assistant professor Cindy Fraga Rizo and faculty associate Christopher Wretman have been awarded a two-year, $390,000 grant from the National Institutes of Justice to determine how best to evaluate one of the country’s largest providers of services for victims of human-trafficking.

The social work team, which includes post-doc scholar Jeongsuk Kim, will be working with Safe Horizon, a New York nonprofit that provides comprehensive case management, social work, and legal services to victims of labor and sex trafficking, including men, women, children, and transgender individuals. The organization serves about 265 new and continuing survivor-clients each year and touches the lives of more than 250,000 survivors annually across all of the organization’s programs.

Although human trafficking has become a global problem and many more organizations are offering services to assist victims, there is limited evidence that any of these programs are actually working because most have not been evaluated. Because of the legal, ethical and confidentiality issues involved with cases of human trafficking, conducting research with survivors can be complicated, said Macy, the School’s Preyer Distinguished Professor for Strengthening Families.

“What we’re trying to determine is, ‘Can we even come up with a rigorous evaluation plan and come up with ways to empower survivors to have a role in the research?’” Macy explained. “We have an interdisciplinary advisory group of other scholars and leaders in the field who will be working with us, along with survivor leaders, and we’ll all be focused on developing the best strategy to evaluate these services and to do it in a way that’s really community-based and survivor driven.”

The evaluation project will launch early next year.