STREETS’ educational programs have been built upon the understanding of human trafficking as a complex social, political, and public health problem, heavily influenced by migration, and largely rooted in intersecting inequities in gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, power, class, opportunity, education, culture, politics, and race among other factors. We analyze human trafficking as part of a spectrum of interrelated violence, exploitation, and systemic inequities that are influenced by various social determinants of health and wellbeing.
As an important part of our curricula, we employ a ‘pedagogy of care’ that is grounded in a survivor-centered, culturally relevant, evidence-based, gender-sensitive, and trauma-informed perspective. It also includes creative forms of expression through the arts, embodied language, and mutual learning through care and connection. Our courses use an intersectional human rights lens to understand the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual trauma experienced by exploited and trafficked people. We draw from interdisciplinary sources and present a variety of perspectives to provide students with a holistic understanding of the health and wellbeing challenges associated with labor and sex trafficking to improve service provision and policy advocacy on behalf of survivors.
The project Migrations: Mapping the Body and Memory was inspired by Esperanza Jorge Barbuzano and Araceli Alonso’s activism and extensive fieldwork on human rights, women’s migrations, and human trafficking. Working with students from the Residencia de Estudiantes de Español at UW-Madison, we organized a series of movie screenings and reflections on these topics, followed by the discussion Migrations, Human Trafficking and Maps of the Body and Memory (Migrant Women from Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa), by Dr. Barbuzano and Dr. Alonso. This learning journey led us to the last stage of the project: two creative workshops, or Talleres de libros cartoneros, where the participants made hand-painted, cardboard cover books, a modest tribute to all women who migrate, to all migrants in transit.
Theater for Healing
In our in-person courses abroad, we use Theater for Healing, or what Augusto Boal called in the 1970 “Theater of the Oppressed.” With this technique, we address with our students and with victims/survivors the issue of resilience. This teaching tool is based on the idea that each of us are actors in daily life and that we have the keys to resolve our challenges and to access knowledge. With this technique, we not only teach conflict situations based on structural violence and oppression but we also provide group-based theatrical techniques to resolve those conflicts. The Theater of the Oppressed makes it possible for us to address migration, health including mental health, human rights, and resilience in a very active way because we, the learners, are also the actors.
Collective Narrative Collages
On our virtual courses, we heavily rely on the creation of collective narratives through “directed collages” as a pedagogical tool for victims/survivors to explore and express their migratory journey from origin to destination. We provide images of paintings that they can use to construct their journey in a collective way. People linked to trafficking cannot speak about their experiences, and the creation of collective narratives challenges their imposed silence. For the women, this trauma-informed technique becomes an artistic tool and a different type of language based on a very reflexive experience about their victimization process.
STREETS Educational and Training Resources
Standard Undergraduate and Graduate Course (3 credits)
Requires 135 hours of student learning: reading, writing, discussion, studio time often with the benefit of guest lecturers who have lived experience and expertise.
Alonso Syllabus: Gender and Health in the Context of Human Trafficking and Migration
Geran Syllabus: Human Rights Issues and Advocacy in East and Southeast Asia
Gerassi Syllabus: Sex Trafficking and Sex Trading
Young Syllabus: Contemporary Law Problems: Domestic Violence
Virtual Field Course (3-credits)
Involves intense virtual training and working closely with international human rights organizations. The first of this course type was developed from the experience of the women victims and survivors of sex trafficking, and from the perspective of the experts who work with them—psychologists, social workers, educators, health professionals, and lawyers in Spain, Morocco, and Nigeria.
Alonso Syllabus: Circle of Care for Global Health and Human Rights in Spain, Morocco and Nigeria
Virtual Field Course Final Project Video
Independent Study (1-3 credits)
Involves working individually with select students who are conducting research or avenues of exploration around a particular aspect of human trafficking either domestically or internationally.
Social Work Education
Social Work Education that Addresses Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation
Practice, policy, and research focused on trafficking for sexual exploitation and commercial sex involvement occur in the United States within a white, heteronormative social environment that must be addressed pedagogically in the classroom. This paper critically analyzes how key anti-oppressive theoretical and practice frameworks should influence education on trafficking for sexual exploitation and commercial sex involvement in social work.
In 2022, Dr. Lara Gerassi received a Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence Award from the UW-Madison Distinguished Teaching Awards Committee in recognition of her outstanding teaching, mentorship, and strong attention to inclusive practices.
L B Gerassi and A J Nichols, ‘Social Work Education that Addresses Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation: An intersectional, anti-oppressive practice framework’, Anti-Trafficking Review, issue 17, 2021, pp. 20-37, https://doi.org/10.14197/atr.201221172