Why the anti-trafficking field needs a shared framework

A human trafficking survivor who is now being helped by an anti-trafficking NGO In Nigeria.

Ariel Zwang is CEO of Safe Horizon, a US-based victim-assistance organization. The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Research shows that 40 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking each year. It's a crime we have to tackle, because no woman, child, or man deserves to experience this horrific violation.

But the relative newness of the anti-trafficking field, combined with the crime's murky origins, ties to international business, and inherent cultural complexities add up to a challenging set of problems.
Unfortunately, there has been too little effort to find consensus within the anti-trafficking field on effective ways to prevent trafficking, help survivors safely escape their situation, or address the many complex needs of survivors after they escape.

    A common cause

    Ideological differences among anti-trafficking groups (e.g. do we focus on law enforcement strategies that prosecute traffickers, or should we prioritize community-based prevention for potential victims?) have even splintered the growing movement, making it difficult to adopt fundamental practices that ensure survivors have access to high-quality care and support.
    Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizon.
    In an effort to bridge those differences, Safe Horizon's anti-trafficking program designed the Global Learning Collaborative (GLC), a project that would harness the experiences of groups around the world that directly help survivors, to build the movement's collective wisdom. And, ultimately, to develop a shared framework.
    Although the GLC's 10 service providers -- which work in countries including Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, Peru, Kenya, Denmark, Cambodia, India, Australia and the United States -- had very different missions, approaches and clients, we worked diligently over a two-year period to agree on common strategies to improve the lives of human trafficking survivors anywhere.
    We call those strategies Principles of Practice, or PoPs. These 14 globally minded, evidence-informed, testable recommendations can be implemented to help prevent trafficking, and assist survivors regardless of their location, age, gender, or experience. This work is not meant to be a "best kept secret" -- we want this to get out. Our hope is that sharing our findings will advance the field and provide survivors with the best support.

    Core standards

    The first four PoPs -- Implementing Core Standards of Care for Trafficking Survivors -- should inform all the direct services that providers offer. They are essential to quality care, and the foundation of any effort to support trafficking survivors.
    PoP 1: Utilize client-centered practice that ensures survivors have the best chance at healing by empowering them to make their own decisions, continually eliciting feedback about their needs, and treating each survivor as an individual with a unique set of experiences, reactions, and recovery needs.
    PoP 2: Implement trauma-informed care that prevents re-traumatization of survivors and mitigates the impact of vicarious trauma on staff by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.
    PoP 3: Reduce barriers to care by utilizing inclusive practices and non-stigmatizing language so that any trafficking survivor who seeks assistance feels confident they will receive or be directed to the services they need.
    PoP 4: Provide services that are informed by survivors' experiences by listening and incorporating each survivor's unique knowledge and feedback and, when appropriate, seeking feedback from survivor advisory boards.
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    Effective collaborations

    Principles 5-10 -- Developing Effective Collaborations to Improve Care, Build Awareness, and Enhance Prevention -- are subdivided into two categories, with 5-7 focused on how to establish effective collaborations and 8-10 focused on specific collaboration objectives.
    PoP 5: Establish shared goals, responsibilities, and roles that reflect a "Shared Responsibility" approach to addressing human trafficking, as well as respect for each partner's unique perspectives, values, experiences and contributions.
    PoP 6: Develop and speak a common language so that all stakeholders -- regardless of culture, ideology, legal position, or other differences -- will be operating within the same framework and share the same expectations for the desired outcome.
    PoP 7: Knowing there is no one right way to engage with survivors, ensure that the survivor voice is represented in all partnerships.
    PoP 8: Take advantage of and strengthen collaborations with NGOs, law enforcement, and government agencies to prevent vulnerability to trafficking.
    PoP 9: Strategize ways to use technology and social media as tools of education and prevention, as well as ways to combat their use by traffickers as recruitment tools.
    PoP 10: Engage safely and effectively with the media as a means of spreading awareness and preventing trafficking while ensuring survivor safety, rights and privacy are protected.
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    Embracing research

    Principles 11 and 12 -- Embracing Research and Evaluation -- focus on the value of research and evaluation to ensure quality service and ultimately achieve evidence-based practices.
    PoP 11: Utilize evidence-informed and evidence-based practices whenever possible, and leverage the knowledge and resources of other providers, local academic institutions, and existing literature to shape practices.
    PoP 12: Prioritize monitoring and evaluation of practices, building a learning culture where the impact of program services on survivors is understood and communicated effectively.

    Supportive organizations

    And, finally, principles 13 and 14 -- Ensuring Healthy and Supportive Organizations -- articulate the need to ensure a safe and healthy work environment by promoting self-care and providing adequate training.
    PoP 13: Promote self-care for staff and survivors by creating a culture of openness, trust and honest feedback that recognizes and responds to vicarious trauma.
    PoP 14: Provide the best possible service to survivors by training and supervising staff and volunteers to have strong advocacy and counseling skills, a broad knowledge of the remedies and resources available to survivors, and an ability to bear witness to a survivor's loss and suffering.
    The above is only a snapshot of our 32-page Global Collaboration Against Human Trafficking Report: Fourteen Principles for Working with Human Trafficking Victims. In its entirety, the report shares concrete and practical ways to implement these PoPs.
    The report is a positive step toward providing human trafficking survivors with the excellent, research-backed services they deserve. It is, however, only a first step.
    Though our field is young and our challenges complex, we must advance this important work until we can implement services that enable each of the 40 million human trafficking victims to fully recover their lives.