Be Safe When Working with Trafficked Persons
Safety is often the most pressing concern for a trafficked person. Even if they do not expressly state that they feel in danger, always treat each interaction with a trafficked person as if there is potential for harm or risk to their safety (or the safety of their family and friends) until you are sure there is not.
Safety planning involves the trafficked person, working with supporters, to develop strategies for feeling safe and secure.
A safety plan may include:
- Identifying emergency escape plans for various situations.
- Initial and ongoing assessment of the risks in the trafficked person’s life.
- Discussing safety concerns and strategies for the main places the person goes (home, shelter, work, public transportation) and areas that may increase risk or vulnerability.
- Assessing safe use of technology such as cell phones and internet — in particular the use of social media and online classifieds.
- Making a list of contact information for support persons (personal and professional), crisis lines, drop-in centres, and law enforcement.
- Creating self-care plans that include strategies for ongoing risk assessment, managing triggers and fears, and activities that promote relaxation and enjoyment.
To help ensure a trafficked person’s confidentiality.
- Protect the person’s name and other identifying information.
- Protect electronic information with passwords.
- Keep any written information about a case locked up, and never leave it where others can see it. Shred outdated paper copies.
- Avoid providing confidential information about the trafficked person over the phone to anyone whose identity and credentials you are not completely sure of.
Review your agency’s protocols and procedures for safety planning, information sharing, and protection of privacy.
If your agency does not have a safety planning resource, see this Creating a Safety Plan tool. While written specifically for women leaving abusive relationships, it has information relevant for helping anyone fleeing from an abusive or unsafe situation, and you may be able to adapt it for your agency.
My Story: We were moved around a lot because the traffickers kept finding us.
As a service provider, your health and safety are also important. You can only help others if you are safe. Here are some general suggestions for staying safe when working with people who are trafficked:
- Choose a safe location to meet with the person.
- If you plan on meeting out of your office, let someone in your agency know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. If possible, and consented to by the trafficked person, bring a colleague.
- Ensure you can communicate in an emergency and exit the situation if it is unsafe. (e.g., carry a cell phone, have emergency numbers on hand.)
- Protect your personal details. (e.g., do not give out your personal phone or home address.)
In the following video, Mary Pichette, Executive Director of Servants Anonymous, talks about how important safe shelter is for a trafficked person.
(Transcript for the Success video.)
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