How to Stop Trafficking: A Victim-Centered Approach



Dr. Roksana Alavi (Photo from College of Liberal Studies.)

Dr. Roksana Alavi works at the University of Oklahoma as an assistant professor in the College of Liberal Studies and as affiliate faculty in the Women and Gender Studies program. She also works with the Social Justice Center and the Iranian Studies program. Her research and teaching have been focused on global and local human trafficking, as well as issues related to race and racism.

Currently, she is working on an anthology on ethics and leadership and on a monograph on Iranian-American Identity. Dr. Alavi is also working with a subcommittee from the Attorney General Human Trafficking Task Force to produce uniform training and has compiled the cultural competency module for the task force. She has two articles on human trafficking currently in progress.

Dr. Alavi has served as a faculty advisor for Off the Market, a symposium on human trafficking, for two years. She also participated in this year’s Take Root: Reproductive Justice in the Red States conference. Past projects have included teaching community members about human trafficking and facilitating intergroup dialogue about race and other issues relating to diversity. Dr. Alavi has organized several events on campus for National Love Your Body Day, which falls on October 19 this year.


From left to right: Michael Snowden, Colby Lower, Lucy Mahaffey, Dr. Kevin Bales, Madison Carlyle, and Dr. Roksana Alavi at the Fall 2014 Off the Market. (Photo by Katie Shauberger.)

Dr. Alavi has always been involved with social justice issues. When she read Disposable People by Kevin Bales while working on her doctorate in philosophy, she said she “felt moved to act.”

“Being committed to issues of social justice, I felt obligated to get involved and do what I can as an educator to let people know what to do and how to protect themselves and their loved ones,” she said.

From her efforts to combat human trafficking, Dr. Alavi said it’s important to remember that rehabilitation is a long process for human trafficking victims.

“Due to the ways and extent that they were harmed, in some cases it might take more than a decade for them to feel rehabilitated, and that itself is a relative term,” she said. “If we, as a society want human trafficking to stop, we have to give it the sources and the time that it takes. Once we do that, it shows we truly care to fully protect our fellow citizens.”

To students interested in getting involved with efforts Dr. Alavi is working on, she said,

Everyone has to decide what they want to do in their efforts to be socially involved. Human trafficking is no different. There are many different ways to get involved.

I am an educator, so I approach it through education. If you don’t know where to start, contact the organizations that work with human trafficking issues and ask them how you can get involved.”

OU’s involvement in combatting human trafficking mainly concentrates on education, which Dr. Alavi called “perhaps the most effective way…both in prevention and also helping with finding the victims.” When people are educated about human trafficking, they can recognize the signs and suspicious activity and take action, she said. Apart form education, Dr. Alavi said one of the most important things she wants people to take away about trafficking is to listen.

“Stop victim-blaming and hear each person’s story,” she said. “If someone tells you that they were victimized or whatever experience they share, believe them, even if you had a different experience.”

Alexandra Goodman is a junior professional writing major minoring in art history and German. She loves reading, writing, and art museums and spends inordinate amounts of time driving on I-40.

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