Karen Stauss

Headshot of Karen Stauss
Professorial Lecturer
[email protected]

Karen Stauss serves as Senior Policy Counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU). She works on legislative and executive branch policy proposals affecting the capacity of the Unit and of US Attorneys’ Offices to prosecute trafficking, and supports building capacity among HTPU’s enforcement partners. Karen was previously the Director of Programs for Free the Slaves from 2010 to 2016, where she was responsible for overseeing the organization’s policy advocacy work and its partnerships with community-based organizations in eight countries. Karen was Managing Attorney and Policy Counsel at Polaris Project, a national anti-trafficking organization, from 2006 to 2010.  From 2003 to 2006, Karen was an Africa Researcher with Human Rights Watch, where she operated the field office in Democratic Republic of the Congo after holding a yearlong fellowship conducting human rights research in Nigeria. She investigated war crimes and other human rights abuses, conducted advocacy, and strengthened human rights group networks. Karen holds a B.A. from Duke University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. Karen is fluent in French and speaks basic Spanish and German.


J.D., Columbia University School of Law

B.A. in Computer Science with a Minor in Political Science, Duke University


  • Forced Labor in Supply Chains: Addressing Challenges, United States Attorneys’ Bulletin (November 2017)
  • Criminal Conduct of Victims: Policy Considerations (Co-author), United States Attorneys’ Bulletin (November 2017)
  • Wives in Slavery: Forced Marriage in the Congo (Co-author) (Free the Slaves, June 2013)
  • The Congo Report: Slavery in Conflict Minerals (Co-author) (Free the Slaves, Summer 2011)
  • Model Provisions of Comprehensive State Legislation to Combat Human Trafficking, and Commentary (Lead author and editor) (Polaris Project, August 2010)
  • D.R. Congo: Civilians Attacked in North Kivu (Human Rights Watch, July 2004)
  • Nigeria’s 2003 Elections: the Unacknowledged Violence (Co-author) (Human Rights Watch, June 2004)
  • D.R. Congo: War Crimes in Bukavu (Co-author) (Human Rights Watch, June 2004)
  • D.R. Congo: Civilians at Risk During Disarmament Operations (Human Rights Watch, December 2003)
  • Testing Democracy: Political Violence in Nigeria (Human Rights Watch, April 2003)
  • Nigeria at the Crossroads: Human Rights Concerns in the Pre-Election period (Human Rights Watch, January 2003)

Classes Taught

Current Issues in East Asia – IAFF 6318