Ends-Means-Process Model

How do I figure out whether my client is a victim of human trafficking?

Target Audience

The Ends-Means-Process (EMP) model is a tool mainly for use by attorneys and legal providers to help identify human trafficking and develop the legal theory of their client's case. However, other providers may use this tool to help identify potential trafficking victimization. If you are not an attorney or legal provider with attorney-client privilege, be mindful of how much information you need to collect in order to provide your services. For more information on privilege and confidentiality issues for social service providers, review our free course Privilege and Confidentiality for Social Service Providers.

Level of Involvement

Much of the terminology used in the EMP model is defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act under 22 USC § 7102.  In order to use this model, it is strongly recommended that you receive additional training on the legal definition of trafficking, if you have not already. CAST’s free e-learning courses, which provide in-depth training on the definition of trafficking, can be accessed here:

Prior to Using this Toolkit

This model is meant to be utilized after you have done an initial intake/interview with your client and have facts available to analyze. This process is meant to be completed on your own and not with the survivor in front of you, and therefore may require a follow-up interview.  

What is the EMP Model and Why Should I Use It?

The EMP model is to help attorneys and other providers apply the facts they’ve gathered from their client to see whether they are a victim of severe form of trafficking in persons as defined in the statute and regulations.  

Many advocates are familiar with red flag indicators or checklists utilized in an attempt to identify whether an individual has been trafficked. However, over-reliance on these indicators has led to misidentification and sometimes, increased denials of certain types of cases. The EMP model was created to help minimize denials of severe form of trafficking in persons cases. This model helps clearly identify the facts legally relevant to the trafficking victimization and also helps identify any gaps in the facts so that attorneys can conduct a second client interview with a tailored focus. The boxes at the top can be utilized to store and sort the facts, while the checkboxes below help you to match the facts with the legal definition of severe form of trafficking.

Additionally, this tool aids attorneys in identifying the theory of their case so they have a framework prior to beginning work on the case.

Download the EMP model worksheet here

How Do I Use It?

In creating the EMP model, CAST’s Training and Technical Assistance team flipped the traditional Action-Means-Purpose/Process-Means-Ends model to focus on the intentional actions the perpetrator took to put the victim in a situation of involuntary servitude, debt bondage, and/or sex trafficking.

Ends-Means-Purpose Worksheet Screenshot

Start with the “ends” by identifying the services or work the victim was required to perform. Once you identify the services, check off the box corresponding to the type of trafficking your client may have experienced. In working left to right, you might find that you will have to change your selection later.

Next move to the “means” column. In this section, you want to be as clear as possible about the actions the perpetrator took to make the victim perform the services you identified in the “ends” category. Be careful not to list all the abuses the client experienced at this time; rather, you should be specific as to the actions the perpetrator took that directly caused the victim to perform the work. In other words, while the other abuses may be horrific or traumatic, our goal at this time is to identify the specific actions that made the victim feel that failure to perform the services would result in serious harm. After you have identified the relevant facts, you can check off the appropriate box for force, fraud, or coercion. (Note: the “fraud” box has an asterisk because fraud alone may not be sufficient to prove involuntary servitude. For more information, view our e-learning course Human Trafficking Defined for Attorneys).

Now, you can move on to the “process” column. Here, you will identify the actions the perpetrator took to get the victim into the situation. Then, check off the corresponding box(es) next to the elements of the legal definition.

Finally, when you have completed all the sections, the “summarize” box helps you clearly articulate the trafficking experienced by your client. This summary sentence serves as a brief theory of the case and can be useful in crafting legal arguments for T visas or other motions!

Additional Analysis Tips

  • Do not try to make facts fit into a specific category. If you don’t have the information to check off a box with certainty or are unsure how a fact is relevant, it is likely a sign that you need to interview your client a little more for additional information and clarification. Download a sample list of interview questions for attorneys here. You will not always get everything you need on the first interview; trafficking intakes can take more than one session and several hours to complete.
  • If you have identified multiple potential perpetrators involved in the trafficking scheme (e.g., recruiter, lender, and employer), try to figure out which perpetrator is making the victim actually perform the services. If you can’t figure out who that perpetrator is, work through the EMP model by choosing just one of the actors as the perpetrator and seeing whether you can complete the worksheet.
  • Human trafficking analysis gets easier with more practice and seeing a wide variety of cases. With time, the EMP model analysis will become intuitive.


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