Kim Westfall, Founder
6 Risks Survivors Face When Going Against Their Traffickers
At Uncaged, we have had the honor of supporting survivors in court. Sometimes, they are defending themselves against traffickers who are trying to exploit them again. Other times, including recently with a survivor we'll call Talyssa, we support survivors as they take action against their traffickers.
Any time a trafficking survivor decides to confront her abuser in court, we stand in awe of her resilience and courage. She's already been through hell, and now she is facing the man who put her there. It's incredible! At the same time, we know that not all survivors will choose to testify against their traffickers. We understand this choice, too. Here are a few reasons why some trafficking survivors may not pursue legal action against their abusers.
#1 It can be retraumatizing to relive their experience
Investigators and law enforcement do not always take a trauma-informed approach when working with a survivor. The way they ask questions or interrogate a survivor may be frightening or even retraumatizing.
#2 May Jeopardize Health
Most of the time, trafficking survivors' bodies have been brutalized. We often work with survivors who have infections, poorly healed wounds, dental issues, or more. Testifying against traffickers can be exhausting, taxing their bodies when they're already weak.
#3 Fear of Retribution
Many traffickers are affiliated with organized crime. Even worse, traffickers often threaten survivors. Sometimes, this means threatening to shame them by telling lies about them back home, threatening to harm their children, or worse.
#4 Feelings of Powerlessness
The experience of being trafficked can crush a survivor's sense of choice, voice, and power. They may not think that anyone will listen to them, or they think their trafficker is too powerful to be taken down.
#5 Lack of resources
When a survivor goes free, she often has no income, housing, medical care and has few places to turn. She may not know how to start a case against her trafficker or know what rights she has. Even if she does, finding and hiring an attorney can feel out of reach.
#6 May still feel connected to Trafficker
One of the most damaging parts of trafficking is that traffickers often lure their survivors in with promises of love and affection. For survivors who have experienced previous abuse or child survivors, they may still feel like their trafficker loves them in a warped way. This can be even more complicated for child survivors whose parents were involved in trafficking them.
At Uncaged, we are working to end trafficking in our lifetime and unlocking transformation for survivors. We know that in order to restore survivors, we must make space to honor their choices. Even if a survivor chooses not to pursue legal action against her trafficker, she still needs holistic support, including legal counsel. Sometimes, taking care of her mental, emotional, and physical needs may open the door to action later on, too.
Together, we are fighting for freedom and coming alongside each survivor in her journey. You hold the key!
to a survivor's fight for freedom.