Around Colorado: Raising the Professional Response to Human Trafficking in Our State

Colorado Project 2.0 Blog Series
The Colorado Project 2.0 Blog series is taking a closer look at some of the findings from our most recent human trafficking research at LCHT. Today’s post from our Research and Training Manager Kara Napolitano highlights the reality that more anti-trafficking trainings are necessary to drive community awareness and professional response across Colorado. You can learn more about Colorado Project 2.0 here.

Training and education is one of the four main programming areas at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT).  As the anti-trafficking movement in Colorado has grown in capacity and collaboration, so has the reach of LCHT’s training program.  LCHT receives training requests from a diverse range of professionals and community members including first responders, service providers, and community groups. Beginning in 2017 LCHT began to put a greater focus on training the child welfare and healthcare sectors in Colorado.  Those efforts continue through today. Both sectors represent vital touch points with individuals experiencing exploitation. 

A Growing Demand For Human Trafficking Trainings in Colorado

LCHT’s Colorado Project 2.0 (CP2.0) revealed a still unsaturated need for training on human trafficking in the state. That need was voiced by survivors, professionals, and anti-trafficking task force leaders in rural, urban, and frontier regions. Participants told researchers that their communities at large didn’t understand the problem or their work, didn’t recognize the need to address root causes in order to address human trafficking, and that multiple professional sectors – including healthcare providers, law enforcement and educators – were largely lacking human trafficking training all together.  

Multiple professional sectors – including healthcare providers, law enforcement and educators – were largely lacking human trafficking training all together.  

In order to fill the needs expressed by participants in CP2.0, LCHT took to the road this summer and facilitated human trafficking trainings around the state. As of early August, LCHT has trained over 2,500 people this year across 23 counties in Colorado. Audiences have included 729 healthcare professionals, 375 victim service providers, 294 community group members, and 288 child welfare professionals. 

In each part of Colorado we visit, we are struck by the thirst to learn more.  In rural and frontier communities, the lack of anti-trafficking training resources has resulted in large turnouts and diverse audiences.  Law enforcement officers who haven’t been trained in human trafficking are engaging with us at public health department trainings. Concerned community members and service providers are showing up at hospital trainings to learn how to better recognize human trafficking and more compassionately respond to survivors in their communities.  And at each new training LCHT is able to grow our partners and build trust among existing networks of response.

Human Trafficking Presentation
As of early August, LCHT has trained over 2,500 people this year across 23 counties in Colorado.

More Trained Professionals Means More Anti-Trafficking Resources

This year alone LCHT has added more than 50 resources to the Colorado Human Trafficking Hotline Resource Directory as providers are learning more about how the experiences of trafficking are showing up in their unique communities.  Additionally, trainers like me are learning more about how those experiences look and feel for survivors and providers across the state: who is providing services, what’s working, and who is or isn’t pursuing justice through the criminal justice system. This allows LCHT to add nuance and lived experience to our trainings, customizing them in a way that brings people into the movement as they recognize the intersections in their own work.

When survivors can put language to their experience and ask for help from service providers who understand both the problem and the barriers to access, true social change is fostered.

Demand for trainings is growing, too. At each training I facilitate, I make contact with another group that wants training. There is a snowball effect as we are able to return to communities and train new groups. We see momentum for social change as survivors, community members, and professionals begin to understand the importance of shared language around exploitation and trust across partnerships.  When survivors can put language to their experience and ask for help from service providers who understand both the problem and the barriers to access, true social change is fostered. And, when law enforcement and other systems like immigration and child welfare have trust within those communities, justice can be pursued in a way that is respectful of a survivor’s lived experience.

LCHT’s Action Plan 2.0 revealed that more anti-trafficking trainings are necessary to drive community awareness and professional response across Colorado.

The Colorado Action Plan 2.0 recommendations were developed by a diverse group of survivors, practitioners, law enforcement professionals, and advocates from across Colorado after reviewing Colorado Project 2.0 data. This Action Plan is comprised of statewide recommendations in each of the 4 Ps:

  • Prevention
  • Protection
  • Prosecution
  • Partnership

The Prevention ‘P’ has two trainings-focused recommendations that LCHT has already begun work in. Our hope is that other organizations doing anti-trafficking work will be able to use our data and Action Plan recommendations to strategize and focus their anti-trafficking efforts and ultitmately fill the gaps identified by participants.

Author: Kara Napolitano
Kara Napolitano is the Research and Training Manager with the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. She holds a Master’s of Arts degree in International Development with concentrations in International Human Rights Law and Refugee Protection from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Kara has worked with LCHT for four years, and currently oversees all training initiatives throughout Colorado.


Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking

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