WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER A POTENTIAL VICTIM OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES BOTH EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY AS WELL AS WHAT SUPPORT THEY MAY NEED.
Your role as frontline staff might mean that your only responsibility is to tell the appropriate agency what you've seen.
However, for some of you, your role means you have a responsibility to interact with potential victims of human trafficking. Here is some basic advice around the sensitivities that you should bear in mind when dealing with them.
This is not comprehensive and if you are supporting a victim you will need to seek further training and advice on best practice.
Victims of trafficking may be extremely vulnerable. There are many reasons why they may not want to or be able to engage, such as:
- They may have complex issues around psychological, emotional and physical health and well-being.
- They might not identify themselves as victims as they see their situation as ‘normal'; would rather remain where they are than return home; feel that they are in some way responsible for what has happened to them; or have a complex relationship of dependency on or trust in their trafficker/exploiter.
- Relationships with traffickers/exploiters can be complex: there can be misplaced trust; a belief that they are in love; fear of what their trafficker/exploiter may do to them or people they wish to protect, such as family.
- They may be fearful and suspicious of you for many reasons such as: revealing their status if they are unsure of their right to remain in country; sharing their experience out of shame or fear of reprisal; fear because of their involvement in criminal activity (even though forced or coerced); mistrust of authority figures; mistrust of anyone.
- They may be suffering from trauma or shock. Consider what information you need. For some victims sharing details is a re-traumatising experience and one which could be damaging psychologically. To avoid stressful retelling of the story it is important to maintain the same point of contact.
For all of these reasons, do not expect a potential victim to tell their whole story or the truth to you before trust has been built.
In your role of working with the potential victim consider their immediate needs and meet them - food, drink, clothes, toilet, medical assistance, a place of safety.