Invisible Chains of Trafficking Victims
How Trafficking Victims Can Become Conquerors
The Department of Homeland Security recognizes that victim assistance in addition to public awareness, training, and law enforcement is needed to combat human trafficking.
Over the past two weeks, I have published two articles on human trafficking. The first dealt with prevention. Specifically, it addressed human trafficking as a problem in our backyards and considerations for parents.
The second article was an explanation of the human trafficking problem and how we can fight to end human trafficking. We can fight human trafficking by reducing the lucrative criminal enterprise, robustly prosecuting human traffickers and perpetrators, and finally, by protecting victims.
This article focuses on the victims of human trafficking and discusses their needs after being rescued from trafficking. The underlying theme of this entire article is maintaining a victim-centered approach. The fight against trafficking does not end when the victim is out of the hands of the trafficker.
We succeed by helping each victim conquer their victimization. It is amazing what a former victim can accomplish as they rise from the depths of their past victimization. They not only change their own lives, but they can change the lives of others.
There are a number issues to consider to help trafficking victims return to productive lives and be successful. The key is to consider the needs of the victim. Victims may need resources including:
· Medical attention.
· Immediate Housing.
· Legal assistance.
· Long-term housing assistance.
Upon being rescued, the immediate needs of the victim need to be addressed and must come first. Law enforcement will need to interview the victim to gather evidence for the prosecution; however, victims will need services and crisis counseling before an interview. The interview itself could exacerbate the traumatization of victims. Some key points to remember immediately following the rescue are:
· Do not be judgmental.
· Remember it is not about their legal status to be in the country. It is about them being a victim of trafficking.
· Let them tell their story. Give them time to do so.
Victims may need medical attention. This could include immediate treatment for physical injuries and malnutrition. It may also include psychological attention to deal with mental trauma. First responder agencies must collaborate to build the relationships with those organizations that can provide assistance. Some resources may include:
· Healthcare providers.
· Mental health providers.
· Legal advocates.
· Specialized groups that focus on human-trafficking victims.
· Translation services may be needed; however, many victims are not foreign-born. The key is to consider what is needed to communicate in a compassionate and respectful manner.
Following the immediate needs of the victim consideration must now be given to how the victim will be treated in the mid to long-term. Remember that they are victims not criminals. Consideration should also be given before a victim is placed in a foster home. Foster homes may not have the skills and training to deal with the complex needs of trafficking victims. Victims could also run away from foster homes and be victimized again.
Organizations do exist that have the specialized skills and appropriate facilities for victims. One such organization is Courage Wordlwide. They build and operate Courage Houses — homes for children rescued out of sex trafficking. The following video highlights how organizations that are focused on the long-term welfare of victims are essential to victim restoration:
The organizations that focus on restoration of human trafficking victims are a major part of the fight against human trafficking. They recognize that we not only have to fight to stop it, but we have to help those who have already been victimized.
These organizations need help. Since January 2014 Courage House has had to turn away 150 girls. Two of the most recent girls that had to be turned away were 8 and 9 years old, respectively. They need our help! This is heartbreaking and the fact the capacity of places like Courage House cannot keep up with demand should be a call to action.
Human trafficking does not discriminate. It crosses national boundaries, social classes, and racial divides to find victims. Victims are also plucked from the streets near our homes. Victims can come from anywhere and therefore a collaborative process is needed to help victims. This include cooperation from government agencies, non-government organizations, private industry, and individuals like you and me.
The problem is so massive that partnerships must be developed to prevent human traffickers from victimizing others, rescuing victims, and helping victims conquer their past mistreatment. Partnerships may be developed to assist resource providers with services, funding, or other support. Partnerships are only limited by your imagination. This is one example of a creative partnership that helps with funding while bringing awareness to human trafficking:
Sovereign Sandals Founder Nick Elcock was joined by Liz Williamson, Trafficking Survivor and Advocate for Courage…www.sovereignsandals.com
Here are some resources to begin your fight or to help others who are already on the frontline:
Courage Worldwide provides resources to assist victims of sex trafficking. You can visit them at: www.courageworldwide.org.
Sovereign Sandals sells handmade sandals and uses a portion of the profits to help Courage Worldwide build homes for sex trafficking victims. You can visit them at: www.sovereignsandals.com/
International Justice Mission is a team of lawyers, investigators, social workers, community activists, and others who fix broke justice systems as part of their goal to protect victims. You can visit them at: www.ijm.org.
The Department of Homeland Security has information on human trafficking here: www.dhs.gov/topic/human-trafficking.
The Polaris Project “disrupts the conditions that allow human trafficking to thrive” and can be visited here: www.polarisproject.org/.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center operates a hotline that serves victims and the anti-human trafficking community: www.traffickingresourcecenter.org or 1–888–373–7888.