Resources Specific to Victims of Human Trafficking

What do we mean by trauma-informed services and why is such an approach important?

  • Human trafficking victims often experience high levels of trauma, which can have a profound negative impact on their ability to function, their behavior, and their self-efficacy. A webinar produced by the National Center for Trauma-informed Care and posted on the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) website on the Effects of Trauma on Trafficking Victims outlines how trauma can affect a trafficking survivor’s road to recovery.
  • A guide to Engaging Women in Trauma-Informed Peer Support was created by the National Center on Trauma-Informed Care as a technical assistance document for providers who serve women. The guide is a resource to learn how to integrate trauma-informed principles into programs and services for women. The resource may be particularly helpful to programs focused on the particular issues of women who have been trafficked for sex or labor.
  • Trafficking survivors may also have experienced extreme violence and trauma while trafficked and thus have highly specialized needs to be met for their emotional and psychological well-being. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center houses several resources on this topic. Additionally, the archived webinar, Enhancing Resiliency Among Trafficking Victims, facilitated by the Trauma Resource Institute presents information on a trauma-informed response in trafficking.
  • Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) has produced this resource tip sheet on what trauma-informed approaches in RHY programs are, and how a trauma lens can help youth served by the program, who can be victims of human trafficking.
  • In the case of trafficking victims who are children, a trauma-informed approach to victims’ services can benefit from resources developed to promote trauma-informed work with children. Trauma-informed Approaches: Federal Activities and Initiatives, developed with support from SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care. This report outlines federal agencies’ commitment to implementing gender-responsive, trauma-informed approaches. The report also addresses the growing national interest in this issue, the work of the Federal Partners Committee, and the specific progress that participating agencies have made.
  • Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) has created a guide to shifting to trauma-informed care for runaway and homeless youth, focusing on posing youth the question “What has happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?” This introduction includes both materials from program staff and youth consumer points of view.
  • HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation produced an issue brief called Treating the Hidden Wounds: Trauma Treatment and Mental Health Recovery for Victims of Human Trafficking that addresses the trauma experienced by most trafficking victims, its impact on health and well-being, some of the challenges to meeting trauma-related needs of trafficking victims, and promising approaches to treatment and recovery.

My agency has decided it wants to be more trauma-informed. Where do I start?

  • The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has developed a training on Enhancing Resiliency Among Trafficking Victims. The resiliency focus of the training can be useful to victims’ services providers interested in strengths-based trauma-informed approaches. Staff needs training to gain basic understanding about trauma, its prevalence and impact on individuals, families, communities and organizations; what it means to be trauma-informed; and specific skills and techniques for providing services in a trauma-informed manner.
  • For work with victims who were trafficked into the US as minors, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has developed resources to support trauma-informed approaches to working with this population. The NCTSN resources provide perspectives and approaches to assist immigrant youth who have experienced potentially traumatizing experiences both during their journey to the US and upon arriving in this country, related to war, persecution, abuse, trafficking, and violence.
  • For trafficking services providers who work with youth, the Adolescent Health Working Group’s Trauma & Resilience: An Adolescent Provider Toolkit, can help build knowledge around trauma and resilience, and how programs can adjust their approach to care. Before an agency can truly provide trauma-informed care, employees need to understand the basics of trauma.
  • If your program serves youth who have been exploited in the sex industry, you may wish to explore the 12 core concepts in NCTSN’s guide to trauma in youth who have been trafficked. Concepts cover a broad range of points that practitioners and agencies should consider as they strive to assess, understand, and assist traumatized youth.

What are the key issues in making sure my agency does not re-traumatize our clients?

Interactions with our staff and agencies may be stressful for clients and unintentional features of our interactions and physical spaces may inadvertently cause additional anxiety that interferes with the ability of staff to engage parents and children in their treatment plans.

  • Project REACH’s case study for working with survivors of human trafficking focused on how to prevent re-traumatization during service delivery. Project REACH offers trainings about trafficking and trauma as well as relevant issues, including basic information about trafficking and the psychological effects of trauma such as trafficking, concrete information about working with trafficking survivors (such as interviewing techniques), and information on culturally appropriate, trauma-informed interventions with survivors of trafficking.
  • The Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center has developed a guide on interviewing trafficking victims that suggests ways to avoid re-traumatizing clients.

How can I/my staff recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in the clients we work with?

Becoming trauma-informed is a process for all members of the agency who interact with clients.

  • The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) delivers a presentation entitled Trauma-Informed Human Trafficking Screenings which encourages service providers to consider ways to tailor engagement that meet the needs each potential victim, build trust, and increase receptivity to services. Trauma-informed work with trafficking survivors begins with promotion of trauma-informed care in the systems that refer survivors for services, such as the health care system, and this training presentation can assist trafficking victims’ service providers to promote trauma-informed care for survivors with partner organizations across the continuum of care.
  • The Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute has developed a tip sheet that describes client behaviors that may be related to trauma and suggestions for how staff might best respond to clients who exhibit these behaviors.

How do I develop the capacity of my staff to deliver trauma-informed services?

  • The Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC) has compiled this directory to assist anti-human trafficking task forces and service providers to locate relevant training and technical assistance (TTA) resources. These agencies and organizations provide resources and information on a variety of trauma-informed interventions with survivors of trafficking.
  • Because trafficking victims, particularly youth victims, often receive services from a number of different agencies, effective collaboration between your staff and those at partner agencies can help provide the consistency essential for trauma-informed work. ACF’s slideshow on 5 Collaborations to Ensure Trauma-Informed Care for Youth and Families is a good resource to help build staff capacity for trauma-informed work in tandem with other agencies. When each organization of the partnership comes into contact with youth, that’s one more chance to assess the youth’s experience with trauma and to help them heal and build resilience.
  • The Polaris Institute has developed a report on promising therapeutic supports for victims of human trafficking. It describes a number of programmatic approaches and uses case vignettes to illustrate ways in which these practices seem helpful to clients.

    Return to Resource Guide to Trauma-Informed Human Services

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