Ending Human Trafficking: Survivors of Trafficking Are the Experts of Their Own Experience

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January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York joined 29 Jewish organizations around the country to issue a statement of guiding values on ending human trafficking—also known as modern-day slavery—throughout the U.S. and abroad.


For the final eight days of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month we invite you to read our series of blog posts highlighting each of the Jewish values included in the statement and how they motivate us to work toward the end of slavery and human trafficking.


Value 4: Survivors of trafficking are the experts of their own experience.

In order to create survivor-centered services and policies, our advocacy must be survivor-led. In order to prioritize the leadership and expertise of trafficking survivors, we must place their needs and experiences at the core of our work.


by Rachel Siegel


In my social work coursework, I came across Carl Rogers’ Person Centered Therapy, or Client Centered Therapy. This humanistic approach works in the way that it sounds, by focusing and placing the responsibility on the client. Rogers’ approach is based on the belief that all people are essentially good. Person Centered Therapy has three essential components that have stuck with me: the idea that the client is the expert, unconditional positive regard of the client, and empathy.


According to Person Centered Therapy, the client knows best. The client should be the one to explain his/her own difficulties and is best equipped to decide how to solve them. A therapist must always maintain a positive attitude toward the client, allowing the client to work on his/her own self-worth and determine the path to improvement. The therapist may not approve of some of the client’s actions, but must always accept them without judgement. Person Centered Therapy requires empathy, requiring a therapist to step into the client’s shoes and experience life from the client’s perspective. When the client feels safe and understood, he or she has the ability to become self-aware and change his/her behavior.


JWFNY grantee, Sanctuary for Families, puts their clients first. They listen and understand the concerns, interests, and strengths of their clients as the basis for their advocacy efforts to support victims of domestic violence. Through our grant, Sanctuary provides holistic services for Orthodox teenage girls who are at risk of sex trafficking. The organization understands that the clients are the experts of their own experiences and help them with whatever they need, whether that is legal assistance, clinical services, or job training.


Why don’t we treat survivors of trafficking this way? Rather than blaming the victims, law enforcement and clinical professionals should create more survivor-centered services and policies, just like Sanctuary for Families. Survivors know what they need and must be the ones to lead advocacy efforts as well. When working with any population, we cannot dictate the needs of our clients or the best way to solve them. We must remember to listen to the survivors, who are, after all, the experts.



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