Escaping human trafficking does not mean a survivor’s life will suddenly go back to normal. Often it signals the beginning of a long road of rehabilitation, moving beyond emergency rescue shelters and becoming secure on their own.
In the United States, most government funding has gone towards prosecuting traffickers, identifying victims, and providing emergency services. While these are undoubtedly essential, it also means that organizations serving trafficking victims may not have the resources to support them in finding long-term employment, a key step to helping survivors regain security.
On top of this, trafficking survivors may suffer from PTSD and trauma, and employers may not always be sensitive to their needs.
In an op-ed for The Hill, Mar Brettmann, executive director and founder of the non-profit organization, BEST: Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking, explains:
Survivors often have unique challenges to finding employment such as lack of a standard work history, or stolen or missing documentation. Others may be unstably housed, have a criminal history associated with their trafficking experience…
Recognizing these unique challenges, the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking — with Amazon, Carlson, Coca Cola, Google and Microsoft among its members — recently completed an assessment with their employer partners to study opportunities to create internal policies and practices so that employers are fostering work cultures in which survivors of complex trauma can thrive.
The biggest challenge reported was a lack of a clear pipeline to connect survivors with jobs and job training programs that were appropriate for their needs. BEST is working with employers to help fill this gap. However, the anti-trafficking movement also needs public agencies and private organizations to help fund expanded employment services for survivors.
Brettmann, for example, recalls how one case manager of a job training program admitted that she had discriminated against a trafficking survivor who had been a sex worker. Accordingly he says there needs to be significant training for case managers who are largely ignorant about how to support the employment of trafficking survivors.
He concludes by saying that, “The most concrete way for survivors reclaim their dignity is through a job.”
“It’s what makes survivors’ rehabilitation sustainable in the long term.”