Professor Melissa Breger presented her research “Healing the
Wounds of Children Sexually Trafficked Internationally by Examining Strategies
for Family Violence Prevention Domestically” at the International Society of
Family Law (ISFL) Conference held at Brooklyn Law School from June 6 through 9,
She was part of a panel exploring “Strategies for Reducing
Family Violence and Aiding Violence Victims.” The panel, moderated by Paul Vlaardingerbroek,
University of Tilburg Faculty of Law, occurred on June 7 and included scholars
from the United States, Canada and Slovenia.
“The sexual trafficking of children, including from
developing countries to the United States, is an epidemic,” said Professor
Breger, who began researching the issue in 2009. “As I recognized the depths of
the problem, I started to re-shift my focus to think about the epidemic in a useful
way: how do we rehabilitate the children once they are rescued?”
Professor Breger, who was director of the Albany Law School
Family Violence Litigation Clinic for eight years, notes that many of these
children cannot return to their home countries once they are freed, and that
they exhibit some of the same characteristics, including Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder, of children exposed to trauma from combat in war-torn countries or
children exposed to child sexual abuse or domestic violence in the home.
Differences exist for sexually trafficked children, however,
that require special attention. For example, Professor Breger noted, victims of
family abuse tend to respond well to group therapy, while victims of sexual
trafficking generally do not.
“We can’t just put these children into the traditional
foster care system or treat them as incorrigible youth,” said Professor Breger.
“But there are systems in place that can help trafficked children. These
current resources can serve as a stopgap measure while we develop a better
Professor Breger plans to work with students over the summer
and into the fall to produce scholarship based on her research, ultimately
disseminating it to academics, policy makers and advocates.
Professor Breger has been teaching at the law school level
for 14 years, first at The University of Michigan Law School and then at Albany
Law School since 2002. Prior to teaching, Professor Breger dedicated her career
to children, women and families, with her formative years practicing in New
York City in a number of capacities.
She is the recipient of several teaching and service awards,
both on a local level and on a national level, including the Shanara C. Gilbert
Award in Recognition of Her Excellence in Teaching and Contributions to the
Advancement of Social Justice from the American Association of Law Schools and
the L. Hart Wright Excellence in Law Teaching Award from The University of
Michigan Law School. Professor Breger also received the
Albany County Family Court Children’s Center Award “In Recognition Of Her
Outstanding And Tireless Work Assisting Children And Families In Need And For
Her Dedication To Ensure That Law Students Obtain The Skills Necessary To
Provide High Quality And Compassionate Legal Services To Family Court
Litigants” in May 2008.
Professor Breger’s current courses at Albany Law
School include Evidence, Family Law, Criminal Procedure: Investigation (4th,
5th, 6th A), Gender & the Law, and Children & the Law. She is the co-author of NEW YORK LAW OF
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, a two-volume treatise published by Reuters-Thomson-West, as
well as the author of multiple law review articles regarding issues of family
law, gender, and justice. Her scholarly interests include the rights of
children and families, gender and racial equality, procedural justice in the
courtroom, juvenile justice, the increasing epidemic of child sexual trafficking,
law and culture, and the intersections between psychology and the law.