Two years ago, UAHT set out to increase the identification of exploited men, women, and children in Houston. We expanded our services from professional education and community awareness to include outreach and supportive programming. We were excited, eager, and ready to broaden our reach in the community. There was such temptation to dive in and do anything and everything we believed survivors needed.

But every day, our team was reminded that doing good work means putting in the time, research, and energy to create services that help rather than harm individuals who’ve experienced trauma. So we pushed forward, dedicated to taking the necessary steps to research, learn and understand how to best support survivors of exploitation and the prevention of human trafficking.

Of course, the best way to serve survivors in a trauma informed way was to learn from survivors themselves. UAHT partnered with The Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTC) to learn from two survivors who have experienced the horrors of trafficking. These consultants have not only experienced and healed from their trauma, they are leaders in their communities and driving forces within the anti-trafficking movement both on a local and national level. They know the realities of coping and living with the trauma – and how to innovate and create change in the movement.

Our entire team learned to effectively identify and engage survivors, and how to empower and elevate their voices. Our consultants also expanded our understanding of a survivor’s mindset and provided first-person insight to the healing process. During our on-site training, we combed through our organization’s direct outreach, social media, supportive services, all with the intent to ensure each program is crafted with survivor-trauma informed practices.

Watching these empowered survivors teach us about trauma bonding, familial trafficking dynamics, pimp control, and more was a surreal experience. In the anti-trafficking movement we constantly talk about empowering survivors. These two individuals exemplified what it means to be empowered and showed us what true resiliency looks like. Their resiliency and strength is a reminder that our job as an organization goes beyond our ability to identify human trafficking – that our work is to elevate the voices of those who have survived throughout their victimization and who continue to survive.

We ended our time with the survivor consultants feeling overwhelmed with the information they shared – but also with a sense of encouragement and fortified belief that hope can prevail. Our team is composed of incredible people. We work hard to build outreach and supportive programs with the intent to have long lasting impact on the individuals we encounter, and the community we serve. Yet, we know that that there is so much more to be done, as we work to identify these resilient survivors. But we can’t do this alone, we need you to join us. How will you choose to help?

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