Caring for Victims of Human Trafficking: Staging and Bridging Cultural Differences in Germany and France

Par Mathilde Darley, Anne Dölemeyer dans Sociologus Vol. 20, n°1, 2020 p. 19-38

According to prosecuting authorities, victims trafficked into sexual exploitation are difficult
to identify; it seems even harder to find ‘appropriate’ victims willing to testify in
court. This is often ascribed to ‘cultural differences’ rooted in their (supposedly) foreign
origin. In our contribution, we show how counselling centres for trafficking victims in France
and Germany help to identify victims and to make them more suitable for prosecuting
authorities. In doing so, we argue that these counselling centres position themselves as
indispensable ‘cultural translators’: they help public authorities understand the victims,
and they help the victims understand public authorities, thus providing the basis for any
criminal procedure. Despite very different structures and legal circumstances between
France and Germany, we found a number of similarities in how staff at German and
French counselling centres first establish such cultural differences as a given to then be
able to bridge them. In doing so, we argue, they (even unintendedly) contribute to ethnicising
and further othering their clients, especially highly marginalized ‘groups’ like ‘Nigerians’
and ‘Roma’.