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Partnering With Survivors

“A survivor-informed practice acknowledges the unique perspectives of survivors with relevant expertise based on knowledge of their trafficking experiences and challenges they have faced in their efforts to regain and rebuild their lives. A survivor-informed practice includes meaningful input from a diverse community of survivors at all stages of a program or project, including development, implementation and evaluation.”
                                             —Human Trafficking Leadership Academy, 2017

Survivor engagement allows organizations to better serve clients, craft programs, identify challenges and opportunities, and achieve agency missions and mandates. As a primary stakeholder in the anti-trafficking field, survivor leaders offer invaluable insight and expertise. Anti-trafficking efforts can only be successful with comprehensive inclusion of diverse professionals, including survivor leaders. It offers insight into the anti-trafficking field that, through application, adaptation, and validation, will contribute to the development of evidence-based practices.

Consider ways your organization can collaborate with professionals who have a history of human trafficking to further inform your response.

Understanding the degree to which your organization is survivor-informed is a critical first step. You can assess your organization by eliciting feedback from staff, consultants, and clients through surveys, focus groups, or exit interviews. Regularly assess across the entire organization, including its mission, vision, and culture; approach to program development, implementation, and evaluation; referral networks and partnerships; outreach and awareness-raising activities; fundraising strategies; and human resource and staffing development.

Remember to offer payment or stipends to survivors for their contributions, as you would any professional.

NHTTAC collaborates with a diverse group of survivor leaders, including through the Human Trafficking Leadership Academy (HTLA). The 5th HTLA class, which began in October 2019, is the first national fellowship where recruitment spanned across states and territories. It is also the first class exclusive to those with an Indigenous background.

Promising Practices

Toolkit for Building Survivor-Informed Organizations

For guiding principles, assessments tools, resources, and practical tips for implementing survivor-informed policies and procedures as well as information on how to support survivor leaders as staff, volunteers, and consultants, download this toolkit.

In November 2017, the Human Trafficking Leadership Academy released recommendations for improving service provisions, including guidance on how to be a survivor-informed organization:

  • Solicit survivor expertise throughout program development, implementation, and evaluation. Include diverse trafficking survivor perspectives (i.e., sex and labor trafficking survivors, adult and minor survivors, LGBTQI and Two-Spirit survivors, and foreign national and domestic survivors).
  • Integrate promising practices from other related fields (i.e., intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and labor exploitation), when appropriate.
  • Leverage survivor strengths and expertise to determine the most appropriate activities and level of engagement. 
  • Be mindful of a survivor’s length of time out of their trafficking situation and support survivors in managing their triggers.
  • Train everyone in the organization on trauma-informed and person-centered practices. 

Check out our additional resources.

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