Writing for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a survivor of modern slavery who remains anonymous for fear of stigma, has issued a call to the anti-trafficking sector for U.K. Anti-Slavery Day to better listen to survivors.
There are around 10,000 individuals referred to authorities as “potential victims” each year, but the real scale is thought to be much higher, with some estimating the number of people affected at over 100,000. Yet, in 2019, only 239 people were charged for modern slavery, and the support for survivors is full of problems. Much remains to be done.
Yet, people with lived experience are still largely absent from the debate around modern slavery, especially when it comes to developing policy and legislative solutions to address it and support survivors in appropriate ways that fulfils their needs.
How much more effective would these policies and programmes be if the views of those most affected were included in their formulation? When the voices of the very people that the policies are trying to protect are not heard, how can these policies be effective?
The author works for the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre where they are able to help inform the center’s work as well as to recover their sense of worth and dignity by being treated as an equal.
Including more survivors would affect the direction of intervention, particularly bringing more nuance and context that is often lacking in common law enforcement approaches to trafficking. As a global anti-trafficking organization, Freedom United advocates for the modern slavery movement to be survivor-led.
Representation matters. The use of sensationalist language and images can compound existing trauma and assume that survivors lack agency which only re-victimizes persons who, as the author notes, are experiential experts who should be consulted instead of one-dimensional victims “to pull people’s heartstrings.”
That’s why we launched the My Story, My Dignity pledge and guidelines to help guide the anti-modern slavery sector on how to represent modern slavery and people’s experiences of it with dignity and accuracy. We’re also very grateful to our survivor board members who help to steer the approach of our work.
Sign the My Story, My Dignity pledge and call on the anti-trafficking sector to create more space for survivor leaders.