Bincy Wilson discovered her interest in social work during her undergraduate days in her native India.
Through her church youth group, she worked with needy populations, including the homeless, orphans, abandoned elders, disabled children and the rural poor.
After completing a master’s degree in social work from the University of Mangalore, Wilson was a social worker with Arz, an organization that combated commercial sex trafficking in the Indian state of Goa.
She worked closely with victimized women for three years and helped establish an automatic laundry to give sex-trade workers an alternate source of income and support.
Now, studying for a doctorate in social welfare in UB’s School of Social Work, she is continuing to explore ways to help women who leave the sex trade to re-enter the world.
“My research interests are a product of my experience,” she says. “Whatever services are provided to these women, something is still missing, because I see some them relapsing back to the same life. I am really interested in exploring that missing factor.”
Wilson’s interests fit well with the School of Social Work, whose graduate programs have received national recognition for evidence-based research and a curriculum that centers around a trauma-informed, human rights perspective.
That focus and methodology, while new to Wilson, now inform her work.
“Trauma is not only associated with women’s experience while in the sex trade, but it is also attached to their past, and perpetuates even after their exit,” she says. “We need to have an understanding of that in order to holistically treat these women.”
Along with Barbara Rittner, the school’s associate dean for external affairs, Wilson presented research at an international conference, comparing Eastern and Western programs assisting women entering and exiting the sex trade.
“The work Bincy and I are doing has helped me to think differently about how women enter the trade and why what works in the West to encourage exit may not be workable in the East or subcontinent India,” Rittner says. “This is what makes working with international doctoral students so exciting.”
With Associate Professor Lisa Butler, one of the country’s top trauma experts, Wilson is co-authoring a paper tracing trauma through various stages of women’s involvement in the sex trade.
For her thesis, Wilson plans to investigate former sex workers’ experiences and develop better interventions to help exploited women.
“I’m in the process of becoming a good researcher, thanks to the encouragement from the UB faculty,” she says. “They took the time to nurture my thinking and instill confidence in my abilities.”