Developing Survivor Advocacy Training for Trafficked Persons
by Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA
After more than a hundred presentations designed to raise awareness about human trafficking in western Wisconsin, various professionals and community organizations are now pondering how to develop a survivor advocate training program that is solely focused on the needs of trafficked persons. A natural progression has been through outreach toward like-minded groups to find ways in which to collaborate. This appears to be motivated by a desire and need to become learning communities together.
In western Wisconsin, the La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery (TFEMS) has fielded inquiries from law enforcement, health care providers, community agencies and faith-based groups about preparing advocates who could be available on a 24/7 basis to assist survivors of human trafficking. The need arises out of several factors including an increasing recognition of victims in service areas, a lack of volunteer advocates available at critical times of need, and an acknowledged necessity to prepare advocates to interact appropriately with trafficked persons.
A local law enforcement officer emphasizes a need to not only to apprehend the criminal perpetrator but also to help the victim of human trafficking. Her interest and goal is to develop a core of survivor advocates who could be on call 24/7 to respond if a victim is open to receiving help at the time of the arrest/rescue. There is no such resource available to law enforcement in western Wisconsin at present. Her critical questions focused on what kind of training a survivor advocate should receive and how such training could be provided.
New Horizons, a local shelter for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, currently answers part of this need with night time volunteers who can meet victims at the county line and take them to the hospital or a shelter. A one-year commitment is required of the volunteers who work in this capacity. While a twelve-hour training module is provided for them, it focuses primarily on domestic and sexual violence and only minimally on trafficked persons. Limited follow-up case management is provided to the victims. Likewise, this is also true of a 40-hour advocate training program provided by a local health care system.
In searching for a means to respond to the various inquiries, TFEMS is partnering with New Horizons and The Women’s Fund of Greater La Crosse (a partnership of donors, grantees and volunteers working to support programs for women and girls) to effectively create a human trafficking survivor advocate training program. Because Wisconsin does not have specific legal requirements for training of advocates for trafficked persons, we are prompted to seek out training modules and resources specifically related to human trafficking. Our neighbor state of Minnesota provides an exemplary model in its 40-hour training requirement for anyone who serves survivors of human trafficking.
So far, many ideas have been brought forward. All agree that a model for training must articulate core competencies, be sustainable, and be appropriate for both professionals and volunteers. Human trafficking advocates must be able to interact with a victim, establish and sustain relationships, and if possible, be compensated.
Continuing the conversations around survivor advocate training will take place in a Survivor Safe and Free Round Table event which will invite participants to reflect on possibilities for further collaboration and inquire if their agencies/organizations would send their professionals and volunteers to participate in a training program. Content will also be explored which must be multidisciplinary, survivor-informed and guided by the experience of professionals working with trafficked persons.
There is an indication that we may be breaking new ground in an attempt to create a program specific to survivor advocates in the human trafficking arena and in the potential creation of a workable protocol for response in western Wisconsin.
Tags: La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery, New Horizons, TFEMS, Wisconsin