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Serving Trafficking Victims

Responding to Trafficking

Your response to trafficked victims may differ from the way you typically respond to victims of sexual assault. For example, trafficked victims may be arrested before they are identified as victims. Their level of danger may be extraordinarily high because most traffickers are part of an organized criminal enterprise—and offenders have much to lose. Human trafficking is closely linked to other criminal activities such as extortion, racketeering, money laundering, bribery, drug use, gambling, conspiracy, document forgery, and visa, mail, and wire fraud. The consequences of trafficking in these situations have severe political, economic, criminal, and health implications for victims.66

Consider the following recommendations,67 which may help you to identify resource or service gaps in your response to sex trafficking victims. Although the information is not exhaustive, it can be used as a starting point for developing guidelines that will help you coordinate victims' safety and services while also meeting criminal justice objectives.

  • Develop confidentiality guidelines specific to victims of trafficking: Danger to the victim increases based on the complexity of the case and stage of the investigation. Assess the level of danger by determining the victims' abilities to function on their own, identifying who may be looking for them, and assessing the degree of threat lurking within your own community. For example, victims' arrests can tip off traffickers, who may try to remove remaining victims from the area, retaliate against the victims, or threaten the victim or other victims if they cooperate with the police.
  • Build interagency relationships and identify points of contact: If you establish specific points-of-contact within community and governmental agencies, you can promote more efficient responses and easier access for victims. Collaborate with housing entities, local employers, translation/interpretation services, and medical, dental, and mental health providers to help ensure that trafficking victims will encounter knowledgeable practitioners, regardless of where they first seek services.
  • Use protocols to define interagency responsibilities: Trafficking victims need services from numerous staff and multiple agencies. Establishing protocols that specifically define each SART agency's roles and responsibilities in responding to trafficking victims will help ensure that trafficking victims' rights and criminal justice objectives are consistently met. Consider creating memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with community partners to document your guidelines.
  • Develop multidisciplinary skills-based training: Concentrate your training efforts on reporting, outreach, cultural sensitivity, and knowledge and understanding of human trafficking. Evaluating this training is imperative to ensuring its appropriateness, uniformity, and effectiveness.
  • Create public awareness campaigns: Public awareness campaigns may be a safe way to offer sex trafficking victims information. Campaign materials (e.g., advertisements on ethnic radio and television stations and newspapers, fliers in laundromats, supermarkets, and churches) must be easy to understand and should not require much reading. Victims may only have a brief period to read or hear the information simply because traffickers may closely monitor their actions. You may also consider increasing outreach through your sexual assault awareness month activities.
The Right Tool

In This Toolkit:

  • Team up victims with case managers of the same ethnicity and culture to increase cultural sensitivity: Case managers of the same ethnicity as victims can build trust by overcoming language differences and providing culturally sensitive services through intimate knowledge of victims' cultural values.
  • Create housing resources: Not only do trafficking victims need immediate emergency housing, but they also need safe transitional housing as they attempt to integrate into American life.
  • Work to end sexual exploitation: Strategically engage the media as partners to develop prevention education messages that show sex trafficking as a human rights issue with deep social impact. Collaboration with the media can ignite public awareness, give voice to the hidden issue of sex trafficking, and bring to light the trauma that victims endure.