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Counselling Psychology Quarterly Vol. 22, No.

1, March 2009, 85–96

Cultural perspectives on child trafficking, human rights & social justice: A model for psychologists
Rita Chi-Ying Chung*
Counseling & Development Program and Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA (Received 11 December 2008; final version received 25 February 2009) Every region in the world is affected by some form of human trafficking. This article discusses the complex factors involved in child trafficking from a cultural perspective. The role of the psychologist in addressing human rights and social issues such as child trafficking is also discussed. The article also provides recommendations on how psychologists can be proactive advocates on human rights issues and the Multi-Level Model of Psychotherapy, Social Justice and Human Rights (MLM) in working with human trafficking issues on individual, community, societal and global levels. Keywords: child trafficking; human trafficking; human rights; social justice; forced migration; Asian culture; Multi-Level Model of Psychotherapy; Social Justice and Human Rights; advocacy

Introduction An outcome of globalization is the increased movement of people either by legal or illegal means. There has been increased media attention to human trafficking that has exposed the clandestine nature of this type of illegal migration. Human trafficking is not a new phenomenon; however, it has become more visible due to globalization. Every region in the world is affected by some form of human trafficking. Given the heightened visibility of human trafficking, the purpose of this article is fourfold: (i) to present child trafficking within the context of human rights; (ii) to discuss child trafficking for sex exploitation from a cultural perspective, using Asian culture as an example; (iii) to present child trafficking as it relates to the multiple levels of the abuses of power; and (iv) to discuss the role of psychologists in the elimination of human rights violations and the abuses of power by presenting the Multi-level Model of Psychotherapy, Social Justice and Human Rights (MLM) as a suggestion on how psychologists can work in a cultural responsive proactive manner in addressing human rights and social justice issues. To provide a foundation for the discussion on child trafficking, culture and the abuse of power, this paper begins with a brief summary of human trafficking for sexual exploitation, followed by a discussion on the impact of culture on child trafficking for commercial sex work, the abuses of power as it relates to child trafficking, and finally a discussion on the role of psychologists. Given that

*Email: rchung@gmu.edu
ISSN 0951–5070 print/ISSN 1469–3674 online ß 2009 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/09515070902761230 http://www.informaworld.com

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child trafficking involves ‘‘real’’ people and to ensure that the ‘‘human face’’ of child trafficking is not lost in this article, stories from trafficking survivors and returnees are included. The personal stories are from my interaction in towns and villages in Myanmar where large numbers of children and adults have migrated to another country.

Human trafficking for sexual exploitation There are various definitions of human trafficking by such organizations as the United Nations, the International Organization of Migration, and the International Labor Organization. Regardless of the definition, common elements in all the definitions include terms such as, the use of threat, fraud, force, coercion, and deception (Chung, 2006). Globalization has both changed and increased human trafficking for sexual exploitation so that it is now 10 times greater than the transAtlantic slave trade in 19th century (Chung, 2006). Human trafficking is a lucrative global business generating large profits for traffickers and organized crime syndicates which is estimated to be worth approximately $9.5 billion per year globally (O’Neil, 2000), making it the fastest-growing source of profit for organized criminal enterprises worldwide. Pointedly, human trafficking for sexual exploitation is considered to be a comparatively profitable crime since existing penalties are relatively lenient compared to trafficking drugs and firearms (Chung, 2006). Every region of the world is affected by some form of human trafficking. Estimates of human trafficking vary from the International Labor Organization approximation of 12.3 million people to an estimate by the US Department of State of between 4 to 27 million (USDS, 2008). According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2006), 700,000 to 2,000,000 women and children are being trafficked yearly worldwide which equates to approximately 2,000 to 6,000 women and children being trafficked on a daily basis. Within Southeast Asia, over 225,000 people are trafficked. It is estimated that in the past 30 years over 30 million women and children in Asia have been victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation (Chung, 2006) and that 80% of trafficking victims are women and girls with up to 50% of them being minors (USDS, 2008). Variables associated with human trafficking are labeled as ‘‘Push and Pull Factors’’ (Chung, 2006). Potential victims of trafficking are ‘‘pushed’’ and ‘‘pulled’’ into being trafficked mainly due to poverty. Given the degree of poverty, trafficking victims accept fraudulent offers of foreign employment, such as, childcare or restaurant work, only to find themselves forced into prostitution in deplorable conditions in strange countries where they do not speak the language. They are told that they have to pay off a phony debt of thousands of dollars and their passports and identification papers are confiscated. ‘‘Agents’’ approach parents to buy their daughters with the promise that they will be gainfully employed in restaurants or bars which is complemented by parents being willing to sell their children due to extreme poverty. Victims and their families are also ‘‘pulled’’ into trafficking. Living in extreme poverty is one way people are ‘‘pulled’’ into deceptive offers made by agents, and seduced into the belief and expectation that the child will be able to support the family if they accept the proposed job. As Mahatma Gandhi stated: ‘‘Poverty is the worst form of violence’’.

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Culture impacts human trafficking. Although this article uses Asian culture as an example of how culture influences human trafficking, the intersection of culture and trafficking can be generalized to other cultures, taking into consideration specific factors for a particular culture. The core values of Asian culture emphasize family. The concept of filial piety stresses that children are to be obedient, submissive, respectful, and to take care of parents and self-sacrifice for the greater good of the family (Leong et al., 2007). These cultural values create an obligation to financially contribute to the family. In general, Asian culture is male-dominant and views boys with higher value than girls, causing a preference for sons over daughters. As a result, in some cases girls are seen as property, a negotiable item that can be used for trade, sold, or bargaining (Chung, 2006). Asian culture, similar to many other cultures, subsequently socializes children to respect and obey parents and to contribute to the family’s well-being. This can be seen with Asian children who were trafficked and repeatedly explained how they put themselves at risk for the sake of economic improvement for their families. Many of them felt it necessary to make sacrifices for the benefit of their families, therefore living up to the cultural value of filial piety. Some of the girls who were trafficked for commercial sex talked about their mixed reactions to their experiences. They didn’t like what they were doing, but also felt that to not engage in commercial sex work would disappoint their families in terms of making a financial contribution and providing support. Some girls did not want to leave prostitution and return home because they hadn’t saved enough money to return without shame or embarrassment about the lack of savings to contribute or send home. A Thai saying captures the concept of filial piety. That saying is: ‘‘Repaying the breast milk’’.

A resulting trap The combination of these cultural family values with the cultural response and stigma of rape and prostitution are manipulated and used as a tool in the abuse of power. Being raped or being a prostitute brings shame and loss of face to the girls and their families. This creates an extremely difficult situation for Asian girls who are removed from prostitution and forced to return to their home country or communities. They may be disowned by family and possibly alienated and ostracized by both family and community. This creates a situation where for some girls there may be no option to return home and reconnect with family and community. A Vietnamese saying described the shame and disgrace of being raped or being a prostitute. The saying is: ‘‘Someone ate out of my bowl and left it dirty’’. In Myanmar (Burma), the boys in the village told me that they would never marry any girl who has left the village to work in Thailand, knowing that there is a high probability that these girls would have been raped, sexually abused, or worked as prostitutes. Furthermore, tearful women in the village told me that when their daughters leave to work in Thailand it is not a matter of ‘‘if’’ they will be raped but ‘‘when’’. Traffickers abuse power by exploiting those living in poverty, simultaneously manipulating and taking advantage of the filial piety family cultural values and the cultural response to rape and prostitution.

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Western stereotypes of Asian women and girls Western Asian female stereotypes constitute another factor that contributes to the abuse of power, since these stereotypes create the demand for Asian girls to be trafficked into commercial sex work. The Western stereotypes of Asian girls and women being subservient, obedient, hard working, submissive, passive, docile, shy, demure, softly spoken, eager to please, and exotic, all lead to the China doll, Suzy Wong, and geisha syndrome. These stereotypes increase the demand for Asian girls and subsequently trafficking into the sex industry. David Henry Hwang’s play ‘‘M Butterfly’’ (1988), which is based on a true story of a French diplomat living in China, poignantly captures the strong Western image or stereotype of Asian women. In one scene in the play, the Asian man who was disguised as a woman called ‘‘Song’’ is asked how he managed to hide his sexual identity from his lover (a Western man) for many years. Song responds:
. . . as soon as a Western man comes into contact with the East, he’s already confused. The West has sort of an international rape mentality towards the East . . . . The West thinks of itself as masculine – big guns, big industry, big money – so the East is feminine – weak, delicate, poor, but good at art, and full of inscrutable wisdom, the feminine mystique. Her mouth says no, but her eyes say yes. The West believes the East, deep down, wants to be dominated, because a woman can’t think for herself . . . . . . You expect Oriental countries to submit to your guns, and you expect Oriental women to be submissive to your men. That’s why you say they make the best wives. (Act 3, scene 1)

These stereotypical views of Asian girls have cultivated an entire marriage industry driven by the growing demands for Asian women mail order brides in Western countries. The marriage industry business is housed in those countries with higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and recruits girls coming from lower GDP countries, with the more insidious abuse of power linked to trafficking and the sexual exploitation of Asian girls. Furthermore, the above dialogue from ‘‘M Butterfly’’ suggests that the general Western perception or attitude towards Eastern/Asian countries is to dominate and hence, perpetuate the misuse and abuse of power.

The role of technology and globalization in child trafficking Technology and globalization also play a role in the abuse of power in terms of child trafficking for commercial sex. As a result of globalization there is greater accessibility in air travel and transportation creating a larger and more expansive national and international network and linkage to sex tourism. Furthermore, the advancement of the internet and worldwide web technology contributes to an increase in trafficking into the sex industry and child pornography, resulting in greater access and choices for commercial sex and trafficked persons. Technology allows people to buy sex via the worldwide web and internet, allowing access to a greater variety of sexual options and an increased demand for sexual services. The digital divide between rich and poor regions and countries also contributes to the abuse of power.

The role of psychology in child trafficking In a discussion on the abuse of power as it relates to child trafficking for commercial sex work, the field of psychology and psychosocial issues are sometimes mentioned.

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However these issues are not viewed as a major concern and are oftentimes minimized. In fact, it is the actual abuse of power that minimizes the discussion on the psychology and the psychosocial issues. Yet it is through social justice and human rights that psychology and psychosocial issues are placed in the forefront as a major factor in the discussion of the abuse of power. Therefore psychologists must and should play a critical role in the elimination of the abuse of power and human rights violations. The abuses of power have consequences with short- and long-term psychological effects on individuals, their families, and communities. Psychologists can no longer ignore the psychological impact of the abuses of power and therefore a primary focus of their work must be towards the elimination of abuses of power through human rights and social justice. This can be achieved on multiple levels that incorporate individual-community, systemic, and global levels. This section will present the Multi-level Model of Psychotherapy, Social Justice and Human Rights (MLM) (Bemak & Chung, 2008; Bemak, Chung & Pedersen, 2003) as an example on how psychologists can be culturally responsive and proactive in addressing human rights issues, such as child trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Multi-level Model of Psychotherapy, Human Rights and Social Justice (MLM) The MLM model is a culturally responsive human rights and social justice model that was originally established to work with refugee and migrant populations, but has expanded to incorporate trafficked children and adults as well as other vulnerable groups who are at high levels of mental health risk. The MLM consists of five levels: Level 1: Mental Health Education, Level II: Psychotherapy and Counseling, Level III: Cultural Empowerment, Level IV: Indigenous Healing Methods and Level V: Social Justice and Human Rights. A brief description of the five levels will be presented with an emphasis on Level V Social Justice and Human Rights. The first level, Mental Health Education, consists of mental health education for both the client and the psychologist. At this level, both parties explore what happens in the therapy session, including the role of the psychologist and client, issues of confidentiality, treatment expectations and preferences, cultural views and attitudes on mental health, help-seeking behavior, and work with interpreters/ translators. This is a critical level where the psychologist establishes both ascribed and achieved credibility (Sue & Zane, 1987) by demonstrating cultural responsiveness. It is an important phase of any psychological intervention that helps establish the relationship and clear expectations for both the client and the psychologist. Level II consists of culturally responsive traditional Western psychotherapy which includes innovative and culturally responsive forms of psychotherapy. This is important since many individuals who need psychosocial support or psychotherapy may not know, understand, or have accurate perceptions about what happens in a therapeutic relationship. Thus, Level II expands mainstream Western psychotherapy to include such techniques as narrative therapy, dreamwork, drama, art, storytelling, and drumming. This approach is particularly important when working with individuals and families in relationship to child trafficking issues. Level III, Cultural Empowerment, is where psychologists educate clients and their families about their rights and help them to acquire skills to manage the

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geographic and psychological changes in their lives. The focus of this level is to assist clients in gaining a mastery of new skills that lead to empowerment. Level IV, Indigenous Healing Methods, is where the psychologist works in collaboration with traditional indigenous healers. This is essential in incorporating psychological healing from a culturally appropriate framework that combines rather than competes or ignores traditional healing methodologies. Level V, Social Justice and Human Rights, involves psychologists to be proactive in taking a leadership role in helping clients become active to address social justice and human rights abuses. This action is consistent with the Cultural Empowerment described in Level III and promotes consideration and addressing human rights violations rather than discounting them as an inconsequential aspect of mental health. In addition to being advocates and change agents for their clients, families and communities in relationship to promoting and supporting self advocacy, psychologists at this level engage in advocating for social justice and human rights violations on behalf of their clients both on an individual and systemic basis.

Psychologists’ role in human rights and social justice This section discusses psychologists’ role in the elimination of the abuse of power as it relates to the human rights issue of child trafficking for commercial sex. Based on the MLM Level V, as mentioned above, it is suggested that psychologists work on multiple levels, that is: on individual-community, systemic and global levels. These are described as follows:

Individual-Community level Working on the individual-community level means that psychologists work with individuals, their families, and the communities to eliminate the abuse of power. In this level, psychologists must work from a holistic framework that includes acknowledging, recognizing, and understanding cultural values, beliefs and attitudes, historical, psychopolitical, socioeconomic and environmental perspectives and how these factors all contribute to the abuse of power. To successfully minimize and eliminate the continued abuse of power related to vulnerable children, such as those children who are separated, trafficked, or child soldiers, it is critical to incorporate an approach that works directly with individuals, families, and communities. Work needs to be done from a community-based framework to reintegrate individual children back into their families and communities. This can be achieved through working in collaboration with community leaders, elders, and spiritual leaders to ensure that children are protected from exploitation and the abuse of power. Psychological healing must be done from a community-based approach. If children who have been trafficked are unable to reunite with their natal families, it is necessary to establish and reconstruct communities that include surrogate families. The reconstruction of communities must involve local community members as key players in order to fully understand the community and its challenges. These families and communities are independent on state and governmental institutions and can provide easily available information about these factors in relationship to surrogate families. In addition, surrogate families are important stabilizing forces in that they

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provide a constant and caring relationship between children and caregivers, which acts as a protective factor against psychological problems and vulnerability to abuse of power. One example of this became evident when I spoke to a group of four Burmese female survivors of trafficking. One of the girls did not want to go back home because her parents did not know that she had been working as a sex worker. Clearly if they found this out, she would be disowned and banned from the house and community. There was no place for her to go, so she returned to the brothel. This was heartbreaking for the other three girls and they all decided that they should live together as a family rather than face the pain and disgrace of their respective families. The situation of these girls presents an example of how surrogate families and communities can be established to help minimize the shame, embarrassment, and psychological problems that may plague children who want to leave commercial sex work and go home. Forming surrogate families and communities, if developed and supported, has the potential to provide places where these girls can be welcomed, and where effective psychological healing can take place and social injustices and human rights violations can be effectively addressed. Interdisciplinary collaboration To successfully address psychological issues as a result of child trafficking, it is important to work across disciplines. Given the complexity and multidimensionality of the abuse of power and child trafficking, it is impossible for psychologists to resolve the psychological problems related to trafficking within the narrow framework of psychology without considering other perspectives. Although the field of psychology has an excellent grasp on the understanding of individuals, families, and communities, in order to effectively tackle the intricacy of human rights issues it is necessary for psychologists to work in collaboration with other disciplines. These other disciplines include economists, international lawyers, historians, geographers, educators, anthropologists, sociologists, and public health professionals. Given the extent and magnitude of human trafficking and other social justice and human rights violations psychologists need to let go of an egocentric approach and acknowledge that psychology cannot do it alone. Collaboration of western psychology and traditional indigenous healing methodologies Another factor on this level in eliminating the exploitation of children and the abuse of power is the importance of incorporating traditional indigenous healing as stated in the MLM Level IV. Western mainstream psychologists must form partnerships with traditional indigenous healers to work on issues such as death, burial, mourning, and grieving. More modern-trained professionals can incorporate, in collaboration with indigenous healers, the development and establishment of new spiritual healing and psychological cleansing practices that address modern day issues and problems. For example, given the cultural attitudes towards rape, a culturally appropriate cleansing could help in the psychological healing for survivors and potentially assist communities to become more accepting of the survivors of trafficking within their families and communities. A personal example was when I provided counseling with Asian girls who had been raped in New Zealand. In the 1980s, working with Southeast Asian refugees

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who migrated to New Zealand, it was quickly evident that many of the Vietnamese and Cambodian girls and women had experienced multiple rapes and sexual abuse (Chung, 2001; Chung & Okazaki, 1991). To more effectively address the psychological pain associated with the rapes and abuse, I simultaneously worked with a Buddhist monk to develop a cleansing ritual for the girls. The rape and sexual abuse were extremely difficult topics to discuss given the associated cultural stigma and shame. Some of the girls talked about not being accepted into their communities as a result of being raped. Others talked about being ashamed and embarrassed because their family and community members were forced to witness them being raped. It also became clear that everyone knew about the rape and sexual abuse, but it was a taboo subject and therefore no one discussed it. Similar to the trafficking returnees in Myanmar, rape and sexual abuse became a community secret. While talking about rape, the girls and women always spoke about their Buddhist beliefs. Given their strong spiritual beliefs, I made contact with a Buddhist monk and inquired about creating a Buddhist cleansing ritual for the rape survivors. The cleansing ritual performed by the monks proved to be a powerful healing mechanism not only for individuals, but also for their families and communities. Individuals, families and community members were able to undergo atonement in a collectivistic manner (Chung & Bemak, 2007) which was very powerful for the girls, their families, and their communities. Concurrently it is important to build in a concept of future and hope when working with trafficked survivors and returnees as a protective factor in the elimination of the abuse of power. These girls feel hopeless and helpless and do not see themselves with a future. As we know in psychology, hope is a powerful curative factor (Lambert, 1992). Psychologists must also utilize advocacy skills as a tool in the elimination of the abuse of power. Psychologists and other care-providers must find a mechanism to provide feedback to policymakers as a means to advocate change. The work must involve challenging and changing governmental and international policies that impact vulnerable children. In tandem, we need to pressure multinational organizations to develop programs to support alternative work options for gainful employment for girls through vocational skills training and education. This is key to reducing vulnerability and susceptibility to being trafficked. The use of multi-media outlets is also an effective tool that psychologists can use towards the elimination of the abuses of power, by providing a public forum to educate the global community about the various forms of the abuse of power. Specific to trafficking of girls into commercial sex, multimedia is a powerful tool in changing attitudes towards girls, and dispelling and breaking Western stereotypes of Asian girls. Multimedia can also be used as an effective tool to give voice to trafficking survivors and returnees. Further, giving them a forum to tell their story becomes a powerful healing mechanism.

Systemic level Education is a key to eliminating the abuse of power. For example, in Myanmar some of the villagers I spoke with did not know about or understand human trafficking. Furthermore, trafficked returnees also did not realize that they had been trafficked. Human trafficking is a difficult concept for the Burmese since

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the translation means ‘‘selling of people’’. The only way things are sold in Myanmar is to weigh items on a scale. The villagers told me that they have never witnessed a person being weighed and the trafficked returnees said that they were not put on a scale to be weighed. Therefore they did not think that they were sold and were not victims of human trafficking. In fact, the villagers laughed at the idea of people being sold. Educating community members about what is human trafficking is a critical key in the prevention and intervention of human trafficking. In addition to educating communities about human trafficking, education must also be made available to multiple stakeholders including policy makers, social services, health and mental services, legal and law enforcement, and immigration personnel. For example, for some legal and immigration agencies, lack of understanding of the definition of trafficking makes systematic enforcement and implementation of the policies difficult. Laws and policies on human trafficking need to be more clearly defined and not treated as a problem of illegal migration or prostitution. Psychologists also need to be involved in establishing culturally responsive support and services for trafficking survivors both in the country they are residing in and in their home countries. Survivors may remain silent due to the fear of being punished or abused by the traffickers. Survivors may also fear being punished for having left the country illegally or fear being labeled as a prostitute on their return. Transported with or without false documentation make trafficked survivors stateless people who may be subjected to arrest and deportation on charges of overstaying. They also may become a pawn in a struggle between the authorities and the traffickers. For example, Burmese girls who were rescued from prostitution due to a police raid on a brothel in Thailand spoke about being detained for over six months due to the Thai authorities requiring the girls to testify against the traffickers. The Thai authorities were concerned that if they let the girls go home to Myanmar it would be difficult to find the girls if and when they needed the girls for the upcoming court cases. Therefore, psychologists can collaborate with law enforcement in providing culturally sensitive education about how to handle trafficking survivors. As mentioned above, the penalties for human trafficking are lenient compared to the trafficking of drugs or guns. Psychologists must therefore advocate for tougher penalties for traffickers. Psychologists can assist with advocating for trafficking penalties that are addressed within the framework of collaborative policies and law enforcement across national and international borders.

Global level Although raising awareness of child trafficking issues in psychologists’ home countries is important, human trafficking affects all regions, states and countries worldwide. Therefore, it is important to go beyond one’s own country and community and attempt to impact a broader spectrum that includes both sending and recipient countries. Thus, raising global awareness about child trafficking through education can prevent and intervene in child trafficking. The elimination of the abuse of power as it relates to child trafficking calls for psychologists to proactively speak out about the role and responsibility that both sending and receiving countries play in trafficking. Human trafficking issues have focused mainly

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on prevention of trafficking of victim, protection, and assistance to trafficked person, rather than the traffickers and the issue that demand for trafficked girls exists. More focus must be on the demand and supply factors associated with trafficking. Furthermore, too often the international arena focuses on sanctions on the sending country, that is, those countries that already have a lower GDP, without focusing on the receiving and destination countries or those countries with higher GDPs. This results in economic disparities and the abuse of power by rich nations to poor nations. Advocacy requires responses on national and international levels that focus especially on trafficking for commercial sex. National and international laws have not focused specifically on trafficking for commercial sex compared to illegal labor or domestic work. Furthermore, current laws tend to be punitive rather than protective, and have focused on a few high profile cases such as the illegal network for baby adoptions. Psychologists can be involved in educating agencies about protective approaches with trafficking survivors, rather than stand by, and by inaction allow the continuation of punitive approaches.

Psychologist know thy self This paper has focused on psychologists working from a social justice, human rights and culturally responsive framework. To achieve this, psychologists must also recognize their own countertransference, especially as this relates to human rights and social justice issues. Although psychologists are trained about – and may be aware of – intrapsychic countertransference, when working in the area of human rights, psychologists can also encounter political countertransference (Chung, 2005; Chung, Bemak, Ortiz & Sandoval-Perez, 2008). Political countertransference differs from psychological countertransference in that the source of the countertransferential reactions is dissimilar. The news and media have a powerful effect in forming individual’s knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of specific human rights issues. Psychologists must be aware of how media messages are transmitted to individuals directly and indirectly, as well as subliminally. Psychologists consciously and unconsciously internalize values and beliefs that are presented through the media which may result in negative reactions to various human rights issues. Hence, it is critical that psychologists have insight and awareness about their own political biases and reactions to politicized social justice and human rights issues in order to adequately address their political countertransference when working with such clients.

Conclusion Although the focus of this paper has been on Asian culture and child trafficking for commercial sex, the abuse of power can be generalized to any culture and to any human rights violation. Given the psychological impact of the abuses of power and human rights violations, it is critical that psychologists play a key role in the elimination of abuse of power. Psychologists can be successful in the elimination of the abuse of power and of human rights violations through being culturally responsive and proactive in addressing these issues through a social justice and human rights community-based framework and using culturally responsive human

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rights intervention models such as the MLM. Psychologists need to acknowledge that they can play a critical role in human rights issues and that they can be effective in addressing these issues from individual-community, systemic, and global perspectives.

Acknowledgements
This article is based on a presentation on United Nations Psychology Day in New York on 19 November 2008. The presentation was part of a panel that was titled: Psychological Perspectives on the Abuse of Power. Declaration of interest: The author reports no conflicts of interest. The author alone is responsible for the content and writing of the paper.

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