We are working to release children from the mental bondage associated with sex slavery.

An estimated 2.3 million children in India have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. 80% are female. Most of these girls and young women have been abused emotionally, physically, sexually, and economically; tragically, only a tiny fraction are ever lucky enough to be rescued. But even after rescue, the traumatic experience of severe abuse and exploitation can lead to multiple follow-on adversities including addiction, social isolation, school failure, poverty, violence, further sexual abuse and criminal behavior. Studies have shown that sex trafficking victims are often psychologically and emotionally disabled by their early 30s. Early intervention is critically important to restore them to mental and socioeconomic health, and to prevent this vulnerable population from being re-trafficked.

Unfortunately, there is little reliable data about the unique trauma faced by trafficked children, and virtually no evidence base to support mental health care interventions. Compounding this problem in India is a dire lack of mental health care resources, where there are just 2.5 clinical psychologists available for every million people. Cultural norms and a general lack of exposure to mental health care further serve to magnify a fundamental problem of limited access to transformative care for trafficked children.

At the same time, highly traumatized and often manipulated children tend to have difficulty providing a reliable testimony of in a court of law. This leads to anemic conviction rates for traffickers and renders the criminal business of trafficking in children virtually risk-free. When combined with the high rate of re-trafficking, a vicious cycle of abuse ensues.


To address these challenges, EmancipAction is implementing
a three-pronged strategy:


We are working to establish an evidence-based, effective and scalable approach to mental health and trauma care for child victims of sex trafficking, leveraging the latest technology and a ground-breaking partnership with Columbia University.

EmancipAction has partnered with the Global Mental Health Lab of Columbia University's Teachers College, to evaluate the viability and effectiveness of training lay caregivers to implement Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), an approach to care that is endorsed by the World Health Organization and expected to resonate well in the family-based and community-oriented cultures of Asia.

Under the guidance of the world renowned expert and director of the Global Mental Health Lab, Dr. Lena Verdeli, the research project will be the first of its kind to establish solid evidence for an intervention that addresses the unique challenges associated with providing accessible, affordable and effective mental health care for child trafficking victims in countries where access to trained mental health experts is severely limited. Research begins Fall, 2017.

Critical to the success of this work is our technology partner, UST Global. UST has developed a custom iPad app for EmancipAction that will facilitate the collection and analysis of real-time data, enabling caregivers and their supervisors to have timely, data rich case discussions, leading to better training and optimal care for kids.

The app will facilitate the rigorous monitoring, evaluation and measurement that EmancipAction requires, while giving caregivers the tools they need for their own case management and professional development.

Using leading edge technology from UST Global, EmancipAction teams can more effectively track, measure and evaluate program results in real-time.


We are training caregivers and frontline staff to provide culturally relevant, proven mental health interventions. Caregivers are empowered, and children are given the tools to heal and transform their lives.

EmancipAction works with partners in low-resource, residential care settings to build capacity to deliver evidence-based, mental health interventions that are effective and affordable. Currently, many staff members in homes for child trafficking survivors are overworked, desensitized, and untrained in trauma care. Without realizing it, these untrained caregivers can inadvertently re-traumatize vulnerable kids. We believe that these children deserve better. EmancipAction aims to dramatically improve the standard of care for rescued children by training caregivers in counseling and behavioral strategies, and building a sustainable psychiatric infrastructure, which includes supporting caregivers with a holistic wellness program of their own. We have worked closely and successfully with the privately-run Mahima Home in Kolkata and are now expanding to support a government-run home for trafficked children in Mumbai.


Shockingly, only 10-20% of trafficking cases in India result in a conviction. With effective trauma care, however, exploited children begin to untangle the lies told to them and are able to understand that they are victims - not perpetrators - of a crime. Testimonies improve, convictions increase and we start to disrupt the virtually risk-free business of sex trafficking.

Young brains can be incredibly resilient and in some cases protect children who experience extreme trauma by blocking or otherwise distorting painful memories. While potentially helpful to victims in the short run, such distortions are not helpful when it is time to provide proof that a crime has taken place in a court of law. Furthermore, child trafficking victims have often been subject to extensive lies and manipulation, which leave them confused, fearful and devoid of hope for a different future. With better mental health care, trafficking victims can develop mental clarity, understanding, language, optimism and the confidence needed to do the hard work of testifying effectively against their traffickers. By empowering former slaves to share and release their stories, they begin to see a different future for themselves and possibly even achieve a measure of justice. These are fundamental steps in breaking down the secretive and insulated sex slavery industry.

EmancipAction's goal to disrupt the lucrative business of sex trafficking through more successful testimonies aligns well with stated priorities of the Indian government to make progress in fighting the crime of trafficking. International pressure to do so was increased after being assigned "Tier-2 Watch Status" by the US State Department in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

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