Surviving Human Trafficking In The United States
“How Do You Define And Measure Success?”
“How do you define and measure success?” This question is asked in each Human Trafficking Investigations Law Enforcement Class by Rick Hoffman. Success and achievement can look different to different people. As a nonprofit whose focus is to stop human trafficking, a victim escaping their trafficker, the recovery of a person being trafficked, facilitating 30 officers to learn how to investigate
human trafficking crimes in 3-days or an arrest and prosecution of a human trafficker, all are successful accomplishments.
This past week, several young adults and children were given a chance at a better life because informed and dedicated individuals went above and beyond to help. However, the greatest achievements were not accomplished by the multiple law enforcement agencies and human trafficking organizations involved. They came from the individuals who had been trapped in trafficking situations.
While we move through our daily lives, survivors who are being trafficked are using every skill and resource they have to get through to the next day. While anti-human trafficking initiatives and policies are being made, survivors are finding ways to stay alive and make it through to the next day. While law enforcement human trafficking curriculums are being created, taught, learned, and executed, survivors are searching for new ways to stay alive and make it through to the next day. And while shelters and houses are being built, staff trained, and doors open to residential programs, survivors are still working to get through the night and stay alive until the next day. When someone has escaped or is recovered by law enforcement from trafficking, she or he has succeeded in surviving that day. That doesn’t mean the work is done and things are easy from that point on, it means she or he has an opportunity to wake up the next day.
Make It Personal
Another statement often heard during the Human Trafficking Investigations Course from instructor Victor Williams is, “If you are going to be effective in this field, you need to make it personal. If your family member was a victim, how would you want law enforcement to react, the justice system or even the community? Working in the anti-human trafficking space can be challenging but if you make it personal, it makes you a better person and a better professional.”
Last week there were numerous trafficking situations in multiple states unrelated to each other that required urgent responses. There were unique circumstances that required numerous law enforcement agencies and anti-human trafficking non-profits, including ERASE to work together. It was clear that everyone involved approached the situations with the level of care and professionalism that one would hope to see if it was a family member in need of help.
“Do No Harm.”
Working collectively is necessary due to the lack of resources and trained professionals. Sometimes, it does not go smoothly, especially when there is a distance of 500-1000 miles between the agencies involved. Last week in these particular situations that was not the case. People were working together as if they were from one agency vs multiple law enforcement agencies and nonprofits.
The positive responses and actions seen last week are not the normal standard protocol. Currently, there are few agencies that have standard protocols for human trafficking responses. As mentioned previously, there is a lack of resources and trained professionals across the country. That deficit causes re-victimization and can re-traumatize people. And in some cases, it puts them in danger of being re-trafficked.
Sadly, we are seeing this more frequently. There has been an increase of human trafficking shelters dropping victims off at emergency rooms and not returning for them. This happens because the shelters are not equipped to serve the people they state their shelter serves. We are seeing, anti-human trafficking residential homes operating without trauma-informed or victim-centered knowledge. There are people who genuinely want to help but without training, they are doing more harm. And worse we are seeing cases of human trafficking not being investigated because agencies have not had the training needed to be effective. It’s one thing for professionals to not address human trafficking because they are unaware it exists, it’s another when professionals are aware and choose not to address it. There is a simple statement to remember when interacting with human trafficking victims but applies to everyone. – “Do no harm!”
Don’t Forget Your “Why?”
Working in this field there are new challenges daily making it difficult to be effective. At times it seems we are going backward versus forward. But at the end of the day, we have to remember “our why”. In ERASE’s Human Trafficking Investigations Course, there is a
section on being victim-centered. During the section, the instructor talks about Simon Sinek’s concept of “why”. “Why are we in this field?’ “Why do we want to help” It’s important to identify that reason early on. It serves multiple purposes but when things get difficult and you think about quitting, it will be the reminder that stops you.
Behind The Scene
We think it’s important to highlight the outstanding work individuals are doing to make an impact on human trafficking. None of the situations that occurred last week will make the news and for the professionals involved they are not expecting recognition. They are doing the job they are getting paid or volunteered for but they are giving 200% and go the extra mile. These folks have made working in human trafficking personal and they are making a difference!
Last week was a reminder that more education and training are needed for professionals working in the Human Trafficking field. That there are a lot of great dedicated people who care and are very good at their jobs that quietly work behind the scenes. And that the individuals who are directly affected by human trafficking have amazing character strengths that never cease to amaze us.