Give Back Control and Obtain Consent - Trafficked Persons

A trafficked person has been unable to control what has happened to them. You can help a trafficked person regain control of their life by trusting them to make their own decisions, and asking for their informed consent before taking any action.

Concrete ways to give control and decision-making power to the trafficked person include providing as much information as possible, such as your role, what you can offer, available services, and what will happen next. Keep in mind that some trafficked persons may be reluctant to access services and receive support, but others will accept support readily or even complacently: people who are trafficked are often so conditioned to having someone else tell them what to do that they may expect you to take over where the trafficker left off.

Working With More Than One Potentially Trafficked Person

There is often a hierarchy among people who have been trafficked.

One may be more dominant than the others, and in some cases, the trafficker may have offered rewards to one for keeping the others “in line.” Create space and time to talk to each person separately, and receive consent for services from each one.

In addition:

  • Do not make decisions for them. You may feel the need to do something even if the trafficked person has not asked for help, or has declined your offer of help. It is important not to do this. Taking action may place both their safety and your safety at risk. In addition, they will be more likely to return if their wishes have been respected.
  • Whenever possible, offer the choice of a male or female staff member for services such as nurses, police officers, or interpreters.
  • Remind them that they can ask questions, take breaks, ask for water, or stop the conversation whenever they wish.

It is important to consider the trafficked persons’ ability to make decisions. Rather than asking open-ended questions such as ‘Do you want something to drink’, service providers may want to consider asking more closed questions such as ‘Do you want coffee, tea, water, or juice?’. This was explained to me by a survivor of trafficking who said that she had been prevented from making decisions about what to eat and drink for so long that she became easily overwhelmed by basic questions. She expressed feeling triggered and angry by her inability to make simple choices and would freeze as a result.

– Naomi Krueger, Support Worker for Survivors of Human Trafficking


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