“Human trafficking is an unconscionable attack on the dignity of the most vulnerable among us. Action can’t wait.” -President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Survivor Engagement in the Anti-Trafficking Field: History, Lessons Learned, and Looking Forward
Please note that this introduction contains substantial input from the Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network (the Network). The purpose of the Network is to engage experts, particularly those with lived experience of human trafficking, to provide expertise and input on Department of State anti-trafficking policies, strategies, and product.
Survivors of human trafficking play a vital role in combating this crime. Their perspective and experience should be taken into consideration to better address this crime and to craft a better response to it. They run organizations, advocate before legislatures, train law enforcement officers, conduct public outreach, and collaborate with government officials on local and national levels. They serve the anti-trafficking community and society at large as doctors, lawyers, mental health professionals, and more. Engaging survivors as partners is critical to establishing effective victim-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally competent anti-trafficking policies and strategies that address prevention, protection, and prosecution efforts. Meaningful engagement means collaborating with survivors in all aspects of anti-trafficking efforts such as developing practices, policies, and strategies, as well as prioritizing survivor leadership of those efforts whenever possible.
The goal of this introduction is to highlight and emphasize the importance of meaningful survivor engagement – specifically with experts with lived experience of human trafficking for whom sufficient time has passed since their victimization – and to share context, lessons learned, and guidance to governments, international organizations, civil society, private sector entities, and other stakeholders who wish to further their survivor engagement efforts. While many anti-trafficking stakeholders have long consulted survivors in their work, it is imperative that this engagement be done in a responsible and meaningful way and that stakeholders develop and improve upon their approaches to doing so. This effort will bolster inclusivity, help prevent sensationalism, and reduce potential re-traumatization of survivors. It will also promote more effective criminal justice responses that provide remedies for victims and survivors and help prevent trafficking crimes. This year’s introduction seeks to establish a solid foundation for how to responsibly engage survivors through trauma-informed approaches that promote transparency, trust, equity, inclusivity, and commitment to collaboration.
The background, learnings, and promising practices offered in the sections to follow are informed primarily by survivor leaders, as well as anti-trafficking practitioners and allies in the field, creating a collective basis of understanding upon which the anti-trafficking community can build.
Integrating survivors and their perspective and expertise into the development and execution of anti-trafficking policy, programming, and public awareness efforts is essential. This recognition has prompted governments and stakeholders to consider the best mechanisms to incorporate survivor input and to establish adequate support, including compensation, for survivor leaders. Solutions to combat human trafficking and serve victims are most effective when designed and informed by those who have survived it.
Read full report here.