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Addressing the Intersections Between Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking

Photo of Dr. Marylouise KelleyDr. Marylouise Kelley, Family Violence Prevention & Services Program Director

As Domestic Violence Awareness Month draws to a close, I want to reflect on the intersections between domestic violence and human trafficking, and how the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSA), a part of the Family & Youth Services Bureau in ACF, is working to strengthen partnerships among service providers to better serve survivors and their children.  Like domestic violence, the trafficking of women and girls is an abuse of power; though victims come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances, communities with lesser access to resources are the most vulnerable.

Similar to the prevalence of domestic violence, the trafficking of women and girls is a byproduct of the culture of violence against women. It is not uncommon for victims of trafficking to be coerced into sex or labor by intimate partners who use threats of violence or intimidation. Advocates in both the domestic violence and human trafficking fields observe that the survivors they encounter have endured multiple dimensions of abuse through emotional, verbal, physical and sexual violence, and economic exploitation. A domestic violence survivor seeking refuge in shelter, or a caller to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, may also be a victim of human trafficking. That is why ACF’s role in the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States features the work of FVPSA grantees to identify and support trafficking victims who come in contact with domestic violence services. This synergy between domestic violence service providers and stakeholders working to prevent and respond to human trafficking is a partnership that has long been needed.

Family Violence Prevention & Services Program logo, which includes the initials FVPSA and an image of a family.Across the country, the FVPSA  network serves both domestic and foreign victims of trafficking  through 1,600 domestic violence shelters and 1,100 non-residential service sites, supported by 56 state and territorial coalitions, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Several of FVPSA’s state domestic violence (DV) coalitions are taking the lead to improve victim services by coordinating state-level responses and advocacy. In response to their states’ anti-trafficking legislation, DV coalitions in Georgia and Vermont developed specialized training for domestic violence programs to build their capacity to assist trafficking victims, and promoted a public awareness campaign. DV coalitions in Nebraska, Idaho, Kansas and North Carolina are engaged in statewide task forces to align anti-trafficking efforts, and the Mississippi and Connecticut DV coalitions are working with local shelters to provide targeted training and technical assistance, such as legal advocacy and immigration services, for trafficking victims seen by their programs.

Complementing the work of state DV coalitions is FVPSA’s national resource center for the Asian and Pacific Islander community, the Asian Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence (APIIDV). For more than 10 years, APIIDV has led innovative approaches to educate advocates on the complex social and economic factors behind human trafficking, helping the domestic violence field to better assist victims with culturally relevant services. Over the past year alone, APIIDV has offered training and technical assistance to over 300 individuals, non-profit organizations, and federal employees. Two of APIIDV’s training tools are available on their website. Trafficking: Considerations & Recommendations for Battered Women’s Advocates, examines the data behind what we know about human trafficking, and offers practical tips for advocates to consider when serving survivors in shelter. Health Issues Affecting Trafficked Individuals gives an overview of the types of medical challenges faced by victims of human trafficking so that service providers may better respond to the needs of victims seeking help.  Both resources are valuable tools for domestic violence service providers and advocates to inform their work, particularly in serving Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

Over the coming year, FVPSA will continue to play an active part in ACF’s contribution to the Federal Strategic Action Plan by supporting our national resource centers, state domestic violence coalitions, local programs, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline as stakeholders. The domestic violence and anti-trafficking communities share a long history of grassroots advocacy, increasing public awareness and informing policy. The partnerships strengthened by the Federal Strategic Action Plan will enable advocates from both fields to leverage our collective expertise and resources to assist the millions of women, men and children who are victims.  As Director of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, I am proud to be a part of the Federal strategy to equip service providers across our network to more effectively bring victims out of the shadows and empower survivors.

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