One of the most common questions we get here at Polaris is, “why don’t human trafficking victims just leave?”
The answer is that it can be very difficult for victims to leave trafficking situations, either physically, emotionally, financially, or otherwise. And leaving a trafficking situation or recovering from such a traumatic experience is often too hard to do alone. Many victims require both immediate and long-term support and services in order to restore their freedom and rebuild their lives.
But sometimes reaching out for and receiving help is easier said than done. There are a lot of reasons why a person will or won’t reach out for help, especially if they are experiencing human trafficking. Fears of repercussions or backlash, feelings of shame or guilt, and a lack of awareness that help is available are just some of the reasons that keep people from seeking assistance.
And for victims and survivors who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ), there can be even more fears to overcome, such as a fear of being discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity.
Our new resource, Reaching Out for Help: A Guide for LGBTQ Youth on How to Receive Support and Services from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, aims to show LGBTQ youth that there is inclusive, identity-affirming help available, if they want it. The choice of whether or not to reach out is completely up to individual victims and survivors, but, if and when they are ready to do so, we want their experience to be as comfortable as possible.
Reaching Out is a visual and audio presentation that walks listeners through how to receive help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline and Polaris’s BeFree Textline and explains why they are safe outlets for LGBTQ individuals. Listeners will also learn about human trafficking and how to recognize red flags that could indicate that they or someone they know may be experiencing human trafficking.
We want to show LGBTQ individuals that when you call the Hotline, you’re not just calling some big, unknown, machine-like entity. You are calling highly trained professionals who are also human beings — people whose mission is to help all victims of human trafficking, including people of all sexualities and gender identities.
Hotline Advocates listen closely to each caller’s individual experience without judgments. They will not discriminate against anyone for their gender identity or sexuality. If a caller who identifies as LGBTQ requests services, Advocates will do their best to connect the caller with trafficking-specific service providers who are LGBTQ-sensitive.
At Polaris and at the Hotline, we act on what we know is right: all survivors deserve help escaping modern slavery and rebuilding their lives in freedom. Hotline staff even created a group called the Gender, Sexual, and Romantic Minorities (GSRM) Working Group that is focused on constantly improving our ability to serve LGBTQ callers and ensuring that the Hotline continues to be a safe, inclusive space for all individuals.
We encourage you to watch Reaching Out and share it with your networks so that LGBTQ youth know that if they or someone they know is being exploited by another person for profit there is a way to get help.