After escaping from months or years of victimization, survivors of sex and labor trafficking often need a wide array of services that recognize the unique trauma they have experienced. In order to rebuild their lives, survivors may be in immediate need of housing, counseling, medical care, legal advocacy, job training, interpretation, immigration relief, substance abuse recovery, or food and clothing assistance. Yet, trafficking survivors regularly face significant challenges in accessing these services. In many areas of the United States, specialized trafficking programs may not exist, may be underfunded, or may struggle to meet the high demand for services and assistance. Further, LGBTQ victims face particular institutional barriers or outright discrimination when seeking help.
To establish an effective and non-judgmental continuum of care, we need to meet survivors where they are and begin to empower them to make choices that create and support their futures. There is a continued need for sustainable social service programs that can provide long-term services to all survivors of trafficking, regardless of circumstances. Increased federal and state funding is needed to increase specialized services for victims of both sex and labor trafficking. In addition, service providers for domestic violence victims, at-risk youth, immigrant communities, and LGBTQ populations can incorporate care for trafficking survivors into their programs.
Trafficking survivors may interact with many different service systems throughout their recovery—from law enforcement and the court system to multiple social services agencies. These systems must work together to provide coordinated services to trafficking survivors. They must also implement strong protocols to identify potential victims and to provide trauma-informed, empowering services to survivors and their families.
Our Work In Action
For over ten years, Polaris has been helping survivors of human trafficking rebuild their lives. We operate the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline to connect survivors with critical support to get help and stay safe and equip communities with tools to combat human trafficking. Based on this direct experience, Polaris shares strategies and resources with public and private sector entities to strengthen the safety net for survivors across the U.S.
Photo credit: Robert Nickelsburg