Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of Efforts to Address Human Trafficking

July 30, 2021

The Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) and Administration for Native Americans (ANA) and StoryCorps Visit disclaimer page today announced the release of the Voices of Freedom archive. The archive elevates the voices of nearly 100 survivors who have experienced human trafficking and allied professionals who are devoted to ending it. In alignment with the annual theme, “Victim Voices Lead the Way,” the Voices of Freedom archive of nearly 100 recorded conversations publicly launched during a virtual livestreamed event on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

OTIP created the Voices of Freedom archive to chronicle the impact of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 by preserving the stories of survivors who experienced human trafficking prior to the passage of the legislation and exploring its legacy as shared in stories told by those who have had access to the protections and services provided through the TVPA. These firsthand accounts of how survivors’ experiences have changed over the past 20 years will be preserved at the American Folklife Center Visit disclaimer page at the U.S. Library of Congress.

"Voices of Freedom is just one element of ACF’s comprehensive efforts to prevent human trafficking, but it is an important one. The conversations memorialized in the Voices of Freedom archive allow us to witness the remarkable impact of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the diverse stories challenge us to reexamine the past to ensure the voices of those who experience trafficking in the present are heard. On behalf of ACF, I want to send our heartfelt thanks to all who shared their personal memories, experiences, and perspectives, which will help inform anti-human trafficking efforts both in our country and around the globe.”

JooYeun Chang, ACF Acting Assistant Secretary

“Creating social change on entrenched issues like human trafficking takes decades and often requires sustained vigilance across generations. Our collaboration with StoryCorps provides a platform for survivors and allied professionals to pause, reflect, and share their personal journeys towards progress over the last 20 years.  Just as legacies of historical injustices contribute to human trafficking today, these stories reveal the influences and lessons learned from intergenerational struggles for justice."

Katherine Chon, Director of the Office on Trafficking in Persons

“We were pleased to partner with OTIP and StoryCorps on this project because Native Americans, who have suffered from human trafficking since before the United States was a country, deserve to be recognized as the courageous and resilient survivors they are."

Michelle Sauve, Acting Commissioner of ANA

In preparation for the collection, StoryCorps hosted customized training sessions on StoryCorps’ methods, the power of storytelling, and how to create a culture of listening at any organization. Participants, including both individuals who have experienced trafficking and allied professionals, selected conversation partner(s) and recorded approximately 40 minutes of conversation. Each pair or trio structured their session in ways that were best suited to share their thoughts and memories.

“We see this as an extraordinary gift for humanity. Journalists, academics, and historians will be able to listen to people talk about their experiences living through and fighting against human trafficking. We can all learn from hearing someone else’s story: we just have to listen.”

Robin Sparkman, CEO of StoryCorps

Voices of Freedom demonstrates the power of conversation, storytelling, and oral history, preserving the voices of those who have informed, shaped, and contributed to the successes of the anti-trafficking field over the past two decades. The archive presents a diverse range of lived experiences and emphasizes the necessity of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the development of anti-human trafficking programs and initiatives. Each story serves as a reminder of the importance of remembering history and will be used to inform future work in the fight to end human trafficking.

“StoryCorps tells the true American story—that we are a people defined by small acts of courage, kindness and heroism. Each interview reminds people that their lives matter and will not be forgotten. By strengthening connections between people and building an archive that reflects the rich diversity of American voices, we hope to build StoryCorps into an enduring institution that will touch the lives of every American family.”

Dave Isay, Founder and President of StoryCorps

Quick Facts: 

  • StoryCorps has given more than 650,000 Americans—people of all backgrounds and beliefs, in towns and cities in all 50 states—the chance to record facilitated, 40-minute interviews about their lives. As of July 30, 2021, nearly 100 recordings have been archived through the Voices of Freedom initiative with 47 having at least one participant with lived experience of human trafficking.
  • Conversations were recorded, collected, and archived from February — July 2021, and will continue to be captured through StoryCorps Connect and included in the archives at the American Folklife Center. These conversations feature the voices and stories of individuals who have experienced human trafficking, as well as allied professionals.