On 19 October 2023, FRC member Nadine El-Dekmak will present her forthcoming paper “Trauma bonding in human trafficking and child sexual abuse online” during the penal “Addressing Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Human Beings: Examples from Policy, Legal and Social Perspective” at the online 24h Conference on Global Organized Crime (18-19 October).
The Panel aims to address two critical themes when it comes to tackling extreme exploitation. One adds to the current policy debate on child rights vs. privacy, by aiming to answer questions such as: How can online child sexual abuse and exploitation be effectively addressed from a legal perspective and what are the implications of (existing or proposed) targeted legislation? What types of stakeholders can/should be involved to efficiently address extreme exploitation? The other theme refers to the specificities of exploitation that takes place online: To what extent technology changes the nature of exploitation itself and what are the implications for potential victims and survivors? These two main themes cut across the four contributions of this Panel.
Abstract of Nadine's presentation: The term ‘trauma bonding’ refers to the emotional bond formed between two individuals arising from abuse and coercion. It is generally considered a coping strategy for victims of crime, in the sense that victims develop feelings such as gratitude and sympathy towards their abusers. In this regard, perpetrators intentionally manipulate victims in order to create this emotional attachment. Whilst it appears that trauma bonding is extremely common in situations of trafficking in human beings and child sexual abuse as a result of intentional psychological coercive techniques used by traffickers, research has not yet determined whether trauma bonding similarly arises in case of ICT-facilitated crimes. In other words, do victims of technology-facilitated trafficking and child sexual abuse develop any sort of emotional attachment to their abuser? In answering this question, we will start from the hypothesis that online services (such as social media platforms) may facilitate the development of trauma bonding due to coercion made possible through constant contact between the trafficker and the potential victim. This contribution will discuss findings that yield from literature review and empirical data collected through semi-structured expert interviews with relevant professionals. This research was conducted in the framework of the EU funded HEROES project.