Human Trafficking



Today, over 21 million people are exploited in forms of modern-day slavery. Trafficked persons are drawn from vulnerable populations, and are denied their most basic human rights.  CCHR has worked to advance our understanding of how to combat trafficking effectively through research, education, and programming.


CCHR has engaged in research initiatives on two human trafficking projects:  
  • The Project on  Women Religious and Human Trafficking aimed to provide a full account with incisive analysis of how communities of Catholic women religious have engaged in the fight against contemporary slavery in the United States and around the world. This project proposed to map and document their work before and since 2001, when women leaders of their congregations dedicated their over one million members to combat trafficking. This project was a partnership between CCHR and the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Trafficking, with collaborating partner the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism
  • The Project on Legal Remedies for Victims of Human Trafficking explored how legal systems around the world can better protect the interests of trafficking victims. Poor implementation and interpretation of existing law, limited resources, trends to criminalize victims, and complicating immigration policies commonly leave victims without effective legal remedies. The immediate response to human trafficking is often to call upon NGOs and international organizations to provide short-term crisis relief, thus deflecting attention and resources away from the domestic legal actors who hold the keys to sustainable improvement. This project tackled the question of what features of legal systems - and what legal tools - most effectively help human trafficking victims in the long run. This project drew extensively on the work of the Notre Dame Law School seminar: "Legal Remedies for Human Trafficking," co-taught by Profs. Alexandra Levy and Christine Cervenak.  HT Pro Bono was a collaborating partner on this project.
  • Student research from the NDLS seminar Legal Remedies for Human Trafficking are available here.


With CCHR support,  two courses on human trafficking have been developed at the University of Notre Dame. For undergraduates, there is the Center for Social Concerns seminar: Human Trafficking: Causes, Responses and Current Debates (offered Fall 2016). In Spring 2016,  Notre Dame Law School students in the J.D. and LL.M. programs had the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and investigate specific country practices in the NDLS research seminar: Legal Remedies for Human Trafficking. Papers from the seminar are available here.


  • Catholic Relief Services and The Center for Civil and Human Rights co-convened a gathering of university researchers, CRS global field officers, civil society actors and government partners. The goal of the meeting was to discuss how best to integrate academic research with on-the-ground experience in order to ameliorate the root causes of human trafficking. Details of this event may be found here.
  • Dr. Angela Reed RSM presented an overview of her research into human trafficking in the Philippines, and outlined the innovative new approach she recommends for dealing with the global problem in light of her findings. Details of this event may be found here.
  • Over the course of three days and across varied media and forums, CCHR and its partners – The Kellogg Institute for International Studies; The Department of Film, Television and Theatre; The Center for Social Concerns, Higgins Labor Studies Program; and the College of Arts and letters – explored depictions of human trafficking and child labor through performance and dialogue. Details of this event may be found here.
  • CCHR hosted a training session, an initiative of the Indiana Attorney General’s office, aimed at helping individuals and businesses identify signs of human trafficking. Details of this event may be found here.
  • Alexandra Levy, Notre Dame Law School, delivered a talk on the realities of who human trafficking victims are - and what it means when we’re confronted with a narrative that doesn’t conform to our expectations. Details of this event may be found here.
  • Martina E. Vandenberg, founder and president of the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center, critiqued the State Department Trafficking in Person (TIP) Report and the Department of Justice Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress, asking whether the Unites States deserves the top markings we give ourselves every year for fighting trafficking. Details of this event may be found here.
  • CCHR convened a prestigious group of human trafficking activists to consult on its research agenda. Details of this event may be found here.
  • CCHR hosted (along with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies) the visit of Kevin Bales to the University of Notre Dame.  Details of this event may be found here.

For more information on these initiatives, contact CCHR Associate Director Christine Cervenak at