Empowerment or Exploitation? Ethical Engagement of Survivor Leaders in Anti-Trafficking Organizations


  • M. Elizabeth Bowman Gallaudet University
  • Brittany Dunn Safe House Project




Organizational Culture, Trauma-Informed Organizations, Human Trafficking, Survivor Leadership, Anti-Trafficking Workplace


In recent years, anti-trafficking organizations have increased the use of survivor voices in fundraising, direct service, and leadership. While empowerment is the goal, tokenism can be the outcome when organizations do not engage survivors ethically. This integrative literature review article provides an overview of the research on engagement of sex trafficking survivors in organizations leading anti-trafficking efforts in the United States and summarizes findings to emphasize ethical engagement practices from an organizational culture perspective. Overall, it is recommended that organizations ethically engage survivors in a variety of roles within the organization. To do this well, organizations should create opportunities for professional capacity building, enhancement of survivor leadership roles and responsibilities, and adoption of a trauma-informed and survivor-informed organizational culture to empower survivors.

Author Biographies

  • M. Elizabeth Bowman, Gallaudet University

    M. Elizabeth Bowman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at Gallaudet University. She is also a minor domestic sex trafficking survivor, anti-trafficking advocate, mother of two teens, researcher, clinician, and speaker. In her clinical practice, she works with trafficking survivors using trauma-informed yoga therapy and integrative therapy modalities with children and adolescents with anxiety and other challenges. She holds clinical social work licensure in DC, Florida, Virginia, and Maryland and is a Registered Yoga Teacher, RYT–200. She is the founder and executive director of the Restoring Ivy Collective in the Washington, DC area, a community of survivors of sex trafficking healing together through mutual support and group interventions, including yoga.

  • Brittany Dunn, Safe House Project

    Brittany Dunn is the Chief Operations Officer and co-founder of the Safe House Project. Prior to Safe House Project, Brittany Dunn spent 10 years in International Business Development at CareerBuilder.com. Brittany Dunn has a BA in Economics and English from Wellesley College. She graduated top of her class with an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management. She is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, Pi Sigma Alpha, Wellesley Alumnae Association, the Naval Officers’ Spouses Club, and is an active member in her church. Brittany received the CEO Circle Award from Thunderbird School of Global Management. She is a military spouse, mother of two, lifelong learner, world traveler, and protector of the vulnerable.






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