A Message To Those In The Trenches

September 1, 2020

For those doing anti-human trafficking work in 2020: you’ve carried a lot of burdens, rolled with changes in programs, practice, protocols, and funding. You are advocating for survivors who are experiencing health disparities, increased barriers to resources, and the ongoing reality of institutionalized racism in policies and systems. The impact of COVID on survivors, service delivery, and your own work-life balance is significant.

So when the misinformation and false narratives about human trafficking, specifically child sex trafficking, hit the media this summer, it may not have been the highest priortiy in your work load. Stories about children being sold in cabinets online via Wayfair created a storm of media response. The outrage quickly linked up to some other narratives: Deep State conspiracies about politicians and Hollywood celebrities facilitating and perpetrating these sex trafficking rings drew outrage from concerned citizens, who rallied around the emerging #savethechildren movement with messaging pushed out by frightened moms and co-opted by QAnon. These stories are not new to the movement, but they gained momentum and probably ended up in your community.

The #savethechildren movement has surreptitiously impacted North Carolina’s communities, and local rape crisis programs have been strongly affected. You’ve answered calls from frightened parents. You’ve seen the social media posts about local marches and fundraisers to fight human trafficking in your service area. Para-military style responses with battle imagery and language have formed, with the mission to hunt and eliminate child predators, perpetuating the idea that only a tactical criminal justice response is warranted. At a time where establishing trust, and cultivating collaborative partnerships with local law enforcement is already challenging, these responses have created additional burdens.

For advocates, we are most concerned about how these movements directly affect survivors: that, those who have not been kidnapped or held in chains, are believed, empowered, and supported. We are also concerned that when we focus on sensationalized or high-profile stories as if these are the norm, we fail to see those who are most vulnerable for being trafficked. Perpetuating narratives that rarely center on marginalized communities are incomplete, and ultimately harmful narratives. We must insist that ALL have access to services.

We want to support  and empower you to be the local expert on human trafficking in your community. I have the privilege of assisting local programs in building capacity to lead in awareness and outreach efforts and service delivery for survivors of human trafficking. I have recently worked with local programs to develop a social media and awareness strategy to engage the “Save the children” campaigns. We have also had discussions and problems solved around working with law enforcement, especially agencies that often rely on stings to identify human trafficking, and request collaboration with local programs on those operations. We understand the complexity of working with criminal justice-led human trafficking task forces, and are here for you to process and problem solve!

As you continue to advocate for survivors in your community, I have created some talking points to provide some language around engaging with some of these latest campaigns. If you are a member agency interested in the document, please email me at [email protected] and I’d be happy to share them with you.

Also, to further equip your programs, we are very excited to offer this fall a very special training opportunity.  It is designed for anti-violence, sexual violence, rape crisis, or human trafficking professionals who wish to strengthen their capacity to provide and coordinate survivor-centered, trauma-informed, empowerment-based services to human trafficking survivors in their communities. Because our session is capped at 30 attendees, we are accepting a select cohort for our first virtual implementation of this training. So please sign up soon! Click here to view those trainings!

Thank you for your work that you do on behalf of survivors.

Blog Post by Courtney Dunkerton, NCCASA Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist