Friday in Focus-Rachel Wechsler
Though I had only arrived at Oxford to commence my DPhil studies a month before, I jumped at the opportunity to become an Editor for the Oxford Human Rights Hub Blog at the end of 2013. I was excited to join and help grow this nascent but vibrant network of human rights scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers, and to learn from them. Seeing how others engaged with contemporary human rights issues as I edited their Blog posts helped me to sharpen my own perspective and approach to my work in the field, which is primarily with human trafficking victims. My doctoral research utilizes a human rights framework to examine sex trafficking victims’ experiences with the criminal justice process in the Netherlands. This framework underscores the importance of victims’ perspectives, which I explore through qualitative data analysis, to the development of evidence-based, victim-centred responses to human trafficking. I am also a Research Consultant for a similar project with labour trafficking victims in Ireland, in collaboration with Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and scholars from Maynooth University.
Following my time as an Blog Editor, I stayed connected to the OxHRH by contributing posts, writing the introduction to the Migration, Asylum, and Trafficking chapter of the 2015 Blog anthology, and using the Blog as a pedagogical tool when I taught International Human Rights Law at the West Virginia University College of Law as the 2015 McDougall Visiting Professor of International Law. Wanting to demonstrate current applicability of the foundational concepts my students were learning, I assigned relevant Blog posts to supplement the core readings for each class. I found that these posts often provided an effective jumping-off point for stimulating class discussion. Moreover, I challenged my students to participate in the wider human rights discussion by writing their own pieces in the style of the OxHRH Blog as a class assignment. I was impressed with the quality of the students’ legal analysis as most were new to the field, and was incredibly proud when two of their posts were selected for publication on the Blog.
Since June 2017, I have been an Acting Assistant Professor at the NYU School of Law, where I teach Lawyering to first-year Juris Doctor students. In addition to covering skills such as legal research and writing, oral advocacy, client counselling, and negotiation, a key part of this full-year course is issues of bias and discrimination within law and the legal system. This curricular theme allows me to engage my students in discussions of human rights concepts and principles and is the aspect of the course that I most enjoy. Many of my students arrive at law school with human rights work on their minds, and I aim to encourage and support them in this regard.
I am looking forward to continuing my work and embarking on new projects at the intersection of victimology and human rights law. As I move forward on this path, the OxHRH will undoubtedly continue to be a valuable source of knowledge, inspiration, and community for me.