A Victim-Centered Approach to the Human Trafficking Challenge
Human trafficking is often difficult to identify due to the skilled practices of human traffickers and the challenge of defining a victim.
Victims are often hidden, threatened with abuse, torture, and death. As a result, victims are unlikely to run away or speak for fear of reprisal from their captors. In this modern system of slavery, victims do not have a voice, so citizens and trained professionals must know what to do when encountering a potential victim.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign has systematically worked to combat the growing threat of human trafficking. This victim-centered campaign raises public awareness of human trafficking, encourages reporting of suspected trafficking, and offers detection and investigation training to law enforcement.
DHS and its law enforcement partners must be able to identify the ports, airspaces, and other entryways that traffickers use to import their victims. At these borders, early detection of trafficking victims can allow law enforcement to save victims before they disappear into the country.
An increased Government emphasis on in-person training programs for Federal agencies and DHS’ partners – especially for those safeguarding our nation’s entryways – is critical to early detection efforts. Training programs must tell the real stories of the victims. This not only will bring a personal component to training, but also provides more insight and knowledge for entryway employees to become better detectors of potential trafficking situations.
With this training, DHS and Federal agencies that work at our borders provide the first line of defense to identify victims and disrupt trafficking rings. Additionally, DHS can serve as an information pipeline for state and local officials as well as everyday citizens who unknowingly interact with potential victims every day. Sharing knowledge with the public through the Blue Campaign website, coupled with the efforts of dedicated public officials, will ignite a heightened attentiveness in everyday citizens. This, in turn, can lead to actionable wins in human trafficking efforts.
Without a voice, victims cannot and will not identify themselves. It is up to those around them, trained and untrained, to give them their voice back.