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TIP of the Iceberg: Providing Focused Long-Term Support to Trafficking Survivors 

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, established in 2013 and observed on July 30th each year, is a United Nations (U.N.) designated day to raise awareness about human trafficking and promoting the protection of victims’ rights. 

Human trafficking is a grave violation of human rights and a global crime involving some or all of these aspects: recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or restraining persons through force, fraud, or coercion for various exploitative purposes. These purposes may include forced labor, sexual exploitation, child soldiers, forced marriage, organ trafficking, and other forms of exploitation. 

The day serves as a reminder to governments, organizations, and people everywhere to take action to combat human trafficking and protect the rights of victims. The specific intent is to foster international cooperation and coordination among countries to better prevent trafficking, prosecute offenders, and provide support to survivors. 

Each year various events, campaigns, and initiatives are organized globally to raise awareness about the issue, share information, and encourage action. These activities often include educational programs, seminars, conferences, advocacy campaigns, art exhibitions, and community events aimed at engaging people from all walks of life. 

This year, here in the United States we are in a unique position to capitalize on increased awareness due to the recent movie release in theaters. With the conversation started, this year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons provides a chance to expand understanding of trafficking and discuss situations not addressed in the film: what happens after a victim leaves their trafficking situation. 

After a person is removed from their human trafficking situation, their needs require direct attention and focused support. The following are most commonly employed by those providing trauma-informed support and services to survivors:  

  • Safety and Security: Ensuring the survivor’s safety is always the immediate priority. Transportation away from the scene of the crime requires coordination and planning. They may be taken to a safe location such as a shelter or a specialized facility adept at receiving trafficking survivors.  
  • Basic Needs: In nearly every instance survivors require immediate assistance with essential needs such as water, food, clothing, and accommodation. Medical care is provided to treat any physical injuries or emergency health concerns. 
  • Daily Needs: Survivors often require support in securing things we take for granted like housing, transportation, job placement, and sometimes child/elder care for their family members. 
  • Personal Assessment: Survivors of human trafficking often require specialized counseling and mental health support to address the trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, or other psychological challenges caused by their exploitation. Social Services professionals experienced in working with trafficking survivors conduct comprehensive assessments to understand the survivor’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs. This helps develop an individualized plan for their recovery from the trauma of human trafficking. Trauma-informed care is crucial to their healing process.  
  • Social Services: Various social services can be provided to support survivors in their post-trafficking lives. These services can include education and vocational training, long term job placement assistance, financial literacy training, housing support, and access to community resources. Reintegration programs assist survivors in regaining their independence and reintegration into society. 
  • Legal Support and Advocacy: Survivors frequently need assistance navigating the legal system, understanding their rights, and seeking justice against their traffickers. This support could be help in filing police reports, obtaining restraining orders, pursuing compensation, and accessing immigration relief if applicable.  
  • Peer Support and Survivor Networks: Connecting survivors with peer support groups or survivor networks can be beneficial. These networks provide a sense of community, understanding, and empowerment as survivors interact with others who have experienced similar exploitation.  
  • Long-Term Support: Recovery from trafficking is an ongoing process. The path to stability may include continued counseling, access to healthcare services, educational and employment assistance, and ongoing social support networks. These services promote the survivor’s long-term well-being and help them build a full and independent life. 

It is essential to note each survivor’s journey is unique to them, and the support they receive will vary not only on their age, gender, nationality, but also upon their own specific needs, goals, and wishes. Cooperation and collaboration among multiple agencies, including social service professionals, healthcare workers, faith leaders, law enforcement, as well as friends and family is crucial in ensuring a holistic and comprehensive response to survivor recovery and reintegration.   

While human trafficking is a global challenge, it is important to recognize the specific context, prevalence, and response efforts can differ between countries. Addressing human trafficking requires a comprehensive approach involving prevention, prosecution of offenders, protection of victims, and cooperative partnerships to effectively combat this horrific crime. The U.N. World Day Against Trafficking in Persons plays a crucial role in doing just that with a call to action for the promotion of human rights and the creation of a world free from exploitation and trafficking.   


By John Freeman, TWG Vice President of Strategic & Training Solutions