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Hearing from DV/SV Advocates About Human Trafficking Services

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Little is known about how organizations in the field of domestic violence (DV) and sexual violence (SV) are responding to the needs of human trafficking survivors.

In 2015, Casa de Esperanza’s National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities surveyed 80 different organizations across the United States to understand and document work being done at the intersection of DV/SV and human trafficking. Based on findings from the survey, researchers identified 5 organizations that included both domestic/sexual violence and non-DV/SV organizations to explore more in depth through a case study analysis.

The NLN’s Dr. Josie Serrata and Martha Hernandez-Martinez, MPA, presented these findings in a webinar on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. You can watch the recording of this webinar here.

The study included a web-based survey of DV/SV organizations and case studies of five selected organizations that serve trafficking survivors. The case studies highlight how the organizations adapted or expanded their practices and procedures to best serve the needs of survivors of human trafficking.

Case Study Findings

The case studies included semi-structured interviews with key informants from each selected organization and an analysis of organizational material pertinent to service provision for survivors of trafficking. As a result of these case studies, the following priority areas emerged:

  • Organizational development
  • Changes in staffing, structure, and roles
  • Service elements
  • Cultural connections for survivors
  • Community outreach

Below are quotes from the study that represent the themes.

Organizational development

“As we started talking about the sexual assault piece, it made sense that we actually also look at the human trafficking piece — both labor and sex trafficking. So in 2014, [we] broadened our mission and our philosophy statement. And what we have decided as an agency, instead of having a separate sexual assault program, [is] that all our advocates would be trained in all forms of interpersonal violence. So no matter where a participant enters our door, whether it’s on the crisis line or comes in for an order for protection, we’re able to serve them, whether they’re a sexual assault victim, or human trafficking victim, or a domestic violence victim.”

Changes in staffing, structure, and roles

“[If a domestic violence advocate] works with a domestic violence client, and at some point they find out that this is also human trafficking, then I [as case manager] will get involved, and we’ll work together. And if a sexual assault happened to a client, then a sexual assault advocate will get involved, and we’ll work together… We have weekly case work meetings… and we talk amongst ourselves what is the best way to solve the problem or to help a client. And we have a program manager who oversees the three programs and is supporting us.”

Service Elements

“So you can have a labor trafficking victim who’s extraordinarily traumatized… who’s a man, who’s very traumatized, who’s very ashamed, and who needs counseling — but not domestic violence-based counseling — and who urgently, in order for him to feel better, needs employment. Because so much of the shame that he feels is that he has been unable to provide and so his needs are [to make] him self-sustaining, assisting him in job training, job placement, with stable housing that’s not in a domestic violence shelter.”

Cultural Connections

“If the client is Hispanic and doesn’t speak any English … we would refer the client to other organizations for finding ESL classes/job training. I am still the main case worker [for] their trafficking case by … making sure they are going to get a T-Visa or continued presence and all other services that a trafficking client then would qualify for, but it really depends.”

Community Outreach

“…If one person [….] finds out [the trafficking survivor] left her husband, then the community shuns her. [….]’ So there’s a lot of stigma and a lot of shame in that context… Some of my coworkers [….] … are providing that kind of advocacy within the mosques, within some of the religious institutions, and the social services agencies, so I think their voice is heard more readily than an outsider.”

From our conversations with these organizations, it is clear that DV/SV and non-DV/SV organizations found themselves routinely serving human trafficking survivors despite the limitations that they are facing in terms of resources and training.

To hear more about this study and hear the NLN’s recommendations, watch the recording of the webinar here.

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