We are going down the list of safe house programs, trying to place a woman who has reached out to us for help. She is physically disabled and severely traumatized. We have stopped counting the programs that have said “no,” and are just praying the next one will say “yes.” They cannot accommodate her wheelchair. They do not have an interpreter. They are not equipped to handle her complex psychiatric needs. Yet we keep calling, praying the next one will say “yes.”
This is a common experience for us as an organization doing emergency placement for sex trafficking survivors. With the lack of services available for trafficking survivors in the U.S., survivors with complex needs can easily fall through cracks in the system. When a program has one bed open and five survivors who need it, the survivor that can be perceived as “difficult” will likely not get the placement.
These “difficult” cases include survivors with physical, intellectual, and severe psychiatric disabilities. It includes male survivors of sex trafficking and trans survivors needing gender-affirming care. Survivors with active addictions also fall into this category, as do survivors with children.
It is difficult to place these survivors, but we are slowly making progress. Programs are beginning to identify these gaps and work to fill them. But the federal funding that is reauthorized every 5 years through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act is imperative to this work. The lapse of the TVPRA in September of last year drastically undermines the progress we have fought so hard to make. Survivors and the organizations that support them stand to lose $1 Billion over the next 5 years if HR 6552, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention & Protection Reauthorization Act is not passed urgently.
Programs that have worked so hard to fill these gaps will be left without large portions of their budget, which can lead to closing doors and even fewer resources in an already scarce industry. Survivors that have fought every day to overcome the odds will be left to fight alone, to continue to fall through the cracks, or even to return to their traffickers without hope of being helped.
The final program we called on our long list of restorative care programs finally said yes. The survivor was finally able to leave the chaos and terror of the unknown behind her and fly to a restorative care program to begin her healing journey. The program would not have been able to accept her without the federal funding they received as part of the TVPRA. Thanks to the diligent work of government officials and their constituents, she was able to receive services she otherwise would have been denied because she was “difficult.”
Physical & Mental Health | Barriers to Care
Mental Health Statistics
75% of survivors report having flashbacks
62% of survivors have PTSD
42% of trafficking victims attempt suicide during their trafficking
36.2% of trafficking victims report developing eating disorders
21%of trafficking survivors attempt suicide following their trafficking
Physical Health Statistics
35.2% experienced malnutrition
70% of survivors report physical injuries from their trafficking
67.9% of survivors experienced some type of cardiovascular or respiratory difficulty during the course of their trafficking
50%+ of survivors reported injuries to the face or head
46.7% experienced loss of appetite
42.9% reported severe weight loss