Art Therapy Exhibitions: Exploitation or Advocacy?

AMA J Ethics. 2017 Jan 1;19(1):98-106. doi: 10.1001/journalofethics.2017.19.1.imhl1-1701.


Promoting awareness of human trafficking by sharing trauma survivors' art and summaries of their life stories suggests ethical complexities that have been typically neglected by bioethicists. Although these survivors voluntarily share the objects they created during art therapy sessions, they are still at risk of harm, including further exploitation, due to their vulnerability, high rates of victim sensitivity, and the mental health consequences of their traumatic experiences. While some argue that the benefits of sublimation and art therapy for human trafficking survivors make sharing their art worth the risk, anti-trafficking organizations and supporters of such art exhibitions have responsibilities to be trauma informed.

MeSH terms

  • Art Therapy / ethics*
  • Art*
  • Beneficence
  • Bioethics
  • Crime Victims* / psychology
  • Human Trafficking* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Organizations / ethics*
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Psychological Trauma*
  • Risk
  • Social Responsibility
  • Survivors* / psychology