Survivorship and Human Trafficking
Consider for a moment what it would be like to survive a crime that destroys your identity, your community, and your sense of self. Survivorship of human trafficking is traditionally understood in terms of crisis services and the provision of other immediate needs such as food, shelter, and safety. But beyond those initial supports, little attention is given to long-term survivorship. So what does it mean to have or support survivorship in the anti-trafficking movement?
Beyond Immediate Needs
For many professionals and case managers working with survivors, a similar pattern can be observed. Initial help is given, safety begins to set in, and thoughts and attention turn to new incoming victims. It is a natural progression for professionals who may have little knowledge or training on how to support longterm survivorship. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of leaders within the anti-trafficking movement to change this dynamic.
Many survivors of human trafficking experience systems and policies that also keep them at a distance from informing solutions. Historically, there has been little room for deeper connection between professionals who work on this crime day-to-day and those who experienced it in their own life. That dynamic is beginning to change. Earlier this year, the U.S. government released an important report on human trafficking written by an advisory council made up of human trafficking survivors. This kind of survivor-led initiative could not have been imagined even a few years ago. Tatyana Foltz, a survivor from California, shared her hopes for the report: “I hope that the survivor leaders will not be simply seen as one opinion. I hope the Council is honored as the light and voice of thousands. The hope that too many survivors need. ”
How do we make space for survivor voices to inform this movement? How can our current relationship spaces between “us” and “them” address immediate needs AND long term agreements to work together to combat the crime? An agreement founded on mutual respect for lived experiences and commitment to support multiple voices in the broader context of the crime. We can achieve this space by including, connecting, inviting, and listening to those who are true experts: survivors. Their leadership will guide us to stronger partnerships and better solutions. The need to platform survivors within organizations in the anti-trafficking movement is a must if we are to maintain the true responsibility in collectively combating the crime of human trafficking.
The space for deeper connection to survivors has been a priority for the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking from the very beginning. It has informed our work on the statewide hotline and guided our efforts in participatory action research. It is seen in the 4 Ps framework of prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership which direct the Colorado Project and the Colorado Action Plan. We are proud to be guided by those with lived experience and intimate knowledge of the crime we are all fighting to end.