Domestic Violence as a Cause of Trafficking in Women
last updated September 1, 2005

Domestic violence is one of the most widespread violations of women's rights in the world. Due to limited legal mechanisms and support for abused women in many communities, women often see few opportunities to end the abuse. Research suggests that victims of domestic violence may also be at risk of becoming victims of trafficking when they seek work abroad in order to leave the abusive situation. Research conducted by The Advocates for Human Rights on Trafficking in Women in Moldova and Ukraine identified domestic violence as a key factor that influences women's decisions to leave home for work. A report by Save the Children on Child Trafficking in Albania confirms these findings. The following case studies from the Save the Children report illustrate how women who are subjected to violence are vulnerable to being trafficked:

Case Study 1: Personal Background of E.B.

"E. B., 20 years of age, grew up with her mother who [divorced E.B.'s father] when E. B. was twelve years of age. . . . Both parents are re-married. . . . Because of the frequent and increasing violence of the stepfather towards her and her mother, E. B. decided to run away from home and sought shelter at her cousin's house. Her cousin had worked in Italy as a prostitute, her husband being her pimp. Once back in Albania, [the cousin] started to deal with the trafficking of other girls, using her house as lodging for the girls who were waiting to travel to Italy.

These girls were fully aware of their final destination and of the type of activity they would be undertaking in Italy, so E. B. knew the nature of her cousin's 'job' perfectly well. What she did not know and could not even imagine was that her cousin was preparing the same treatment for her and that her plan was to sell her for 2 million liras. . . . Upon her arrival in Italy, she understood that things were quite different from what she had expected, and after refusing to work as a prostitute, she was savagely beaten and maltreated, not only by her pimp but also by the other boys and girls. . . ."

Case Study 2: Personal Background of M.R.

"M. R. left Albania together with her sister X. G. of her own will, and aware of what kind of activity she would be doing in Italy. An Albanian citizen called I. P. helped to organize the trip. He has been M R.'s boyfriend for approximately a year though she was already married. The reason M. R. decided to [sic] this was extreme poverty and also the conditions of her marriage where she had been subjected to violence since the age of 14. Obviously, her boyfriend only pretended to be in love with M. R. to convince her to take the trip."

Women who have few means to escape abusive relationships may turn to employment services, matchmaking agencies or other offers of help to travel abroad in order to escape their current environments.