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Psychological Coercion in Human Trafficking: An Application of Biderman's Framework.


This study examined coercive conditions experienced by trafficked persons in the context of Biderman's theory of coercion. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 12 adult women trafficked into Los Angeles County, from 10 countries, for domestic work and/or sex work. Participants described health problems they experienced in relation to their trafficking experience and their perceptions of conditions that caused health problems. Utilizing a framework analysis approach, we analyzed themes using Biderman's framework. Participants reported experiencing the range of nonphysical coercive tactics outlined by Biderman, including isolation, monopolization of perception, induced debility or exhaustion, threats, occasional indulgences, demonstration of omnipotence, degradation, and enforcement of trivial demands. Our analysis demonstrates how these coercion tactics reinforced the submission of trafficked persons to their traffickers even in the absence of physical force or restraints. Such psychological abuse creates extreme stress that can lead to acute and chronic, physical and mental health problems.

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