Prosecution Foundations: Educating the Judge and Jury About the Realities of Human Trafficking

Jane Anderson, Senior Attorney Advisor with AEquitas, facilitates a conversation with Miiko Anderson, AEquitas’ newest Attorney Advisor and a former Fresno County (CA) prosecutor with extensive experience prosecuting human trafficking cases. Jane and Miiko discuss various strategies that can enhance prosecutions where judges may not have experience with cases involving sex or labor trafficking and where jurors may have misconceptions or misunderstandings about the reality of what human trafficking looks like in their community.

This webinar is the first of a podcast-style webinar series, hosted by the IACP and AEquitas, that feature conversations with various prosecutors discussing foundational elements of trauma-informed human trafficking prosecutions.  This webinar is a part of IACP/OVC’s anti-human trafficking task force training catalog.

Being Trafficked: What Prosecutors Need to Know About “the Life”

This article describes the pathways into exploitation and trafficking and the realities of the Life. It seeks to give context to the choices survivors make—or are unable to make—before and during their interactions with the criminal justice system. By examining survivors’ choices through the lens of their victimization, prosecutors will be better equipped to identify survivors, however they interact with the system; make informed prosecution decisions, and work with system partners to provide exit ramps from exploitation. Being Trafficked — What Prosecutors Need to Know About the Life

Tapping into Offender Accountability: Using Wiretapping in State-Level Human Trafficking Cases

Law enforcement are regularly challenged to build cases that can be successfully prosecuted when victims are unable to participate. There are a myriad of ways to build cases that are not wholly dependent on victim testimony, and one powerful strategy is to use wiretaps that can capture communications and ultimately establish the elements of “force, fraud, or coercion”. Eavesdropping warrant investigations are technical and resource-intensive, however they are highly effective in obtaining evidence to prosecute offenders without relying on testimony from victims who are often fearful, distrustful, intimidated, and traumatized.

This training focuses on how prosecutors and law enforcement can effectively use eavesdropping warrants to hold traffickers accountable and build strong, actionable investigations even if wiretapping is not ultimately employed. Presenters provide approaches to maximize resources, even when limited, to enable jurisdictions of all sizes to utilize eavesdropping warrants. Additionally, practical strategies to comply with ethical and legal obligations are discussed, including methods to minimize harm and trauma to victims and survivors.

Learning Objectives:
-Build an investigation sufficient to support an application for an eavesdropping warrant
-Define legal requirements before, during, and after intercepting electronic communications
-Litigate pretrial motions to admit out-of-court statements and expert testimony

This presentation was produced by AEquitas under 15POVC-21-GK-03263-HT, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

From Jail, to Bail, to Sale: Trafficking and the Criminal Justice System

Traffickers target individuals whom they believe they can exploit with impunity – individuals who are accessible, vulnerable, and less likely to report their exploitation to law enforcement. As a result, individuals who have a criminal record, are under court supervision, or are otherwise subject to the authority of the criminal justice system are at higher risk for exploitation. Individuals who also struggle with addiction and substance use disorders are especially vulnerable to coercion. The Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report has identified “participants in court-ordered substance use diversion programs” as individuals especially vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking, and recent news reports have validated this assertion. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2022 National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking includes action items aimed at countering common trafficker tactics of manipulating and exploiting individuals with substance use disorders.

This presentation identifies trafficking schemes that involve recruitment from local jails and prisons, as well as from court-sanctioned treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration. The presenters focus on strategies to address victim safety concerns and investigate and prosecute trafficking that intersects with the criminal justice system. Throughout the discussion, the presenters underscore the importance of trauma-informed practices and a multidisciplinary response that includes meaningful access to survivor-led programing and low-barrier services, including appropriate healthcare.

Learning Objectives:
-Identify how traffickers identify, recruit, and coerce victims from jails, prisons, and court-ordered programs.
-Investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases in which victims have intersected with the criminal justice system.
-Collaborate with allied professionals to overcome barriers and provide meaningful access to justice for systems-involved victims.

This presentation was produced by AEquitas under 15POVC-21-GK-03263-HT, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

A Course of Exploitation: The Intersection of Stalking and Sex Trafficking

When offenders engage in a course of conduct that includes sexual exploitation, they perpetrate dangerous and often misidentified and misunderstood crimes, including stalking and sex trafficking. Both crimes are highly contextual in nature and require a nuanced analysis of the relationship between the offender and the victim, as well as the various tactics utilized by abusers to control, intimidate, and traumatize victims with impunity. Stalking behaviors are used to force or coerce individuals to engage in commercial sexual activities or to intimidate and prevent them from engaging with the criminal justice system.

Presenters explore the dynamics of stalking and sex trafficking. They focus on the importance of understanding the context in which both crimes occur and the common tactics used by perpetrators. This presentation provides strategies to improve the identification of these “course of conduct” crimes, increase offender accountability through successful investigations and prosecutions, and minimize further harm to victims and survivors by ensuring they are connected with meaningful services and tools to plan for their safety.

At the end of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Recognize the intersections between stalking and sexual exploitation
-Investigate and prosecute crimes of stalking and sexual exploitation
-Connect victims and survivors to meaningful services, including safety planning


This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU and 2017-TA-AX-K074 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

A Broader Sense of Justice: Respecting Victim Autonomy While Pursuing Offender Accountability

Prosecutors seeking justice in crimes of sexual and domestic violence must often balance holding perpetrators accountable and valuing victim autonomy. Many victims are unable to participate in the prosecution for reasons including fear, ongoing trauma, love for or loyalty to the perpetrator, intimidation, financial harm, self-blame, or embarrassment. Reliving the traumatization of their sexual assault or domestic abuse while feeling like they are in the spotlight can be overwhelming and lead to reluctance to participate in the process. When this happens, the pressure to ensure offenders are fully prosecuted may tempt prosecutors to utilize more extreme methods such as material witness warrants or to seek body attachments or bench warrants—without full appreciation of the impact on the victim or a consideration of possible alternatives.

This presentation discusses the obstacles victims face when considering whether to participate in the prosecution of domestic violence or sexual assault and suggests strategies that prosecutors can use to minimize these barriers to facilitate victim participation. Presenters highlight the negative impacts that pre-trial detention and other next-level measures have on victims and on the community. In circumstances when victims are unable to participate, presenters will discuss possible alternatives for the prosecutor and considerations for balancing public safety risks with victim self-determination.

At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Identify barriers faced by victims participating in investigations and prosecutions of sexual and domestic violence.
-Develop strategies to support victim participation.
-Balance public safety concerns in holding offenders accountable with victim interests in autonomy and self-determination.
-Employ the least restrictive methods possible to enable victims to testify when next-level measures must be utilized.


This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Justice Systems from a Child’s Perspective: Supporting Young Trafficking Survivors

This webinar highlights the Center for Court Innovation’s (CCI) Child Witness Materials Development Project, an initiative funded by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and a partner project of AEquitas. In 2021, OVC published a package of support materials for child victims and witnesses of crime that CCI had created, and in January 2022, OVC published an additional package of interactive support materials specifically for youth who have experienced human trafficking. A multidisciplinary group of national trafficking experts with professional and and lived experience contributed to the design and development of these materials.

In this webinar, participants learn more about how young trafficking survivors experience the justice system, and how they can address youth’s needs and provide developmentally-appropriate information and emotional support. Participants learn how to effectively use the Child Witness materials in their roles so youth feel more informed and empowered as they navigate their own healing process in addition to navigating the system.

The Perfect Plan: How Victor Rax Sexually Abused and Trafficked Boys in Salt Lake City

While awareness of human trafficking is on the rise, there are still blind spots that prevent law enforcement from recognizing all forms of exploitation.  Men, boys, and victims of labor trafficking through forced criminality are often overlooked because they do not fit the typical depiction of a human trafficking victim.   However, in the case of Victor Rax, Utah’s Attorney General’s Office was able to identify dozens of boys and young men from immigrant communities who were forced to sell drugs after being sexually, spiritually, and physically abused. 

The presenters use the Rax case as a backdrop to discuss the realities of labor trafficking through forced criminality, including how traffickers use grooming tactics common in both child sexual abuse cases and in gang culture to recruit and coerce victims to commit crimes.  Strategies to better identify and respond to cases of forced criminality are discussed through a detailed examination of the Rax investigation which led to his eventual arrest for sexual abuse and labor trafficking. 

At the end of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Recognize and describe methods traffickers use to identify, recruit, and coerce victims of labor trafficking via forced criminality
-Conduct trauma-informed investigations and prosecutions in cases where male victims have been abused and exploited to effectively hold offenders accountable
-Collaborate to provide support to and connect male victims of forced criminality/human trafficking with meaningful services

Maximizing Justice, Minimizing Harm: The Prosecutors’ Role in Achieving Survivor-Centered Justice

Prosecutors are leaders, serving their communities by protecting victims and holding offenders accountable. Prosecutors wield wide powers of discretion and therefore are tasked with being gatekeepers to, and from, the criminal justice system. When communities develop responses to human trafficking cases, prosecutors are uniquely positioned to guide policies and practices, including how victims and survivors are treated when they interact with the criminal justice system. Beyond the traditional role in the courtroom, prosecutors can also shape community responses by convening members of the community, educating the public, and prioritizing operations aimed at identifying and serving the most vulnerable individuals in our communities.

This presentation focuses on how prosecutors can collaborate with others to better serve their communities by holding traffickers accountable and protecting victims and survivors in meaningful ways. The presenters provide strategies to leverage the prosecutor’s leadership role to positively influence how investigations are initiated, conducted, and charged. Additionally, the prosecutor’s overlapping ethical obligations are discussed, focused on the duty to achieve justice over convictions and to proactively remedy wrongful convictions.

Learning Objectives:
– Leverage leadership role to promote trauma-informed, victim-centered policies and practices
– Collaborate with traditional and non-traditional partners to hold offenders accountable
– Partner with victim service professionals to ensure that survivors of sex and labor trafficking have meaningful access to appropriate services

Intimate Partner Violence Foundations: Technology Changes, Abuse Doesn’t

This webinar is part of a 10-episode podcast-style series focused on the foundational elements of prosecuting intimate partner violence cases (IPV). In each episode, AEquitas Attorney Advisor Jane Anderson engages in conversations with other AEquitas staff, former prosecutors with years of experience prosecuting IPV. 

In this episode, Jane and Attorney Advisor Jon Kurland discuss the role of technology in intimate partner violence cases. They explore how offenders misuse technology to perpetrate crimes and assert power and control, and they offer strategies for litigating the admissibility of digital evidence and protecting victim privacy.

At the conclusion of this presentation, viewers will be better able to:

  • Keep up to date with technology and trends;
  • Litigate admissibility of digital evidence; and
  • Protect victim privacy.

Additional resources for this episode: