Latest Scholarship Explores Ways to Help Trafficked Children

6/20/2013 | Facebook | Twitter | Email

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, 2013.

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 systemic response.”

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.