Using DNA to Target Sex Trafficking

Victims of human trafficking are often stripped of their passports, identification, and ultimately, their identities. DNA is the one thing that remains with a victim, and for that reason and others, it can be a powerful tool in combatting human trafficking, according to forensic scientist Timothy Palmbach.

Palmbach, chairman of the Forensic Science Department at the University of New Haven, set out last year to test the use of DNA analysis in identifying victims, prosecuting traffickers and ultimately, developing a DNA database of victims and at-risk persons.

DNA has “value on a multitude of fronts” and can serve as an “objective” tool to support a victim’s testimony. “Up to this point and time, the only successful prosecution requires that this victimized child or woman testifies in court in front of the accusers, and it’s extremely difficult for them to do that, and it’s really difficult for them to do that powerfully,” he said. “So we’re going to add to that the support of forensic evidence, mainly DNA evidence, to prove what happened.”

The ultimate goal of Palmbach’s research is to “create a sustainable model,” attract funding, and teach agencies in other countries how to use DNA typing to fight human trafficking, he said.

Learn more at Rachel Chinapen’s New Haven Register article: UNH forensic scientist targets worldwide sex trafficking through DNA.

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