The Safe Center recognizes human trafficking as an egregious form of psychological and physical violence that requires a compassionate and just response. Some forms of human trafficking include: sex trafficking, the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and labor trafficking. Victims of this crime can be children as well as adults of all genders, ethnicity, communities, and backgrounds.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” (human trafficking) as “(a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion…or (b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services…for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.” (http://2001-2009.state.gov/g/tip/c16507.htm)
- Youth who are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation generally have a difficult family life, and overwhelmingly have histories of trauma including child sexual abuse, physical abuse, homelessness, poverty, etc. Youth who are in foster care or homeless are susceptible to falling prey to pimps and traffickers who fulfill their basic needs. Youth then fall into exploitive situations which can include being sold online, out of hotel rooms, on the street, and in various other locations. Commercial sexual exploitation is psychologically damaging and youth are often exposed to severe levels of violence.
- Adult survivors of trafficking come from all different backgrounds and geographic areas, including Nassau County. The Human Trafficking Department works with adults who are domestically or internationally trafficked. They are deceived or forced to work in illicit massage parlors and strip clubs which often leads to sexual exploitation, as well as other forms of labor trafficking. Many adults we serve have a history of prostitution or Unauthorized Practice of Profession arrests.
Although domestic violence and human trafficking are different forms of victimizations, there are similarities and intersections between these types of violence.
- Power and Control: Both batterers and traffickers use power and control to dominate their victims, and the range of tactics used by traffickers resembles that of domestic violence perpetrators. Common tactics include isolation, minimization and normalization of sex acts, physical and emotional violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, financial abuse, threats to family members, use of children to manipulate and control their victims, withholding of food, sleep, and medical care, among others.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Many victims of human trafficking experience Stockholm Syndrome, which is when a trauma-bond develops between the victim and his/her trafficker. Traffickers often use kindness and flattery to encourage a level of trust between themselves and their victims, and create the impression of a caring and loving relationship. This phenomenon is not uncommon in domestic violence situations, which helps to explain why survivors often return to their abusers before successfully fleeing a violent relationship.
- Human Trafficking Intervention Court (HTIC)
The Nassau County Human Trafficking Intervention Court (HTIC) was created with the goal of shifting the perception of individuals arrested for prostitution from a criminal-based perspective to a victim-centered approach, including the incorporation of trauma-informed individual and group counseling, case management and court advocacy in lieu of jail time. Through this initiative there has been a significant shift in the way prostitution is viewed by the justice system and community, supporting individuals who have been systematically exploited by pimps and johns.
- Nassau County Safe Harbour Program
In 2014, Nassau County was designated as one of the first counties in New York State to receive Safe Harbour funding from the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). Safe Harbour programs are collaborative initiatives to develop comprehensive networks of child welfare professionals, law enforcement, prosecution, medical personnel and service providers to identify and respond to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Nassau County’s Department of Social Services designated The Safe Center as the primary referral source for child trafficking cases in the County. The Safe Center currently employs two Safe Harbour staff who provide direct services to youth in the Child Advocacy Center, ensuring that youth and their families receive a trauma-informed, multi-disciplinary response. More information about the Safe Harbour program is available through the Nassau County website.
- Adult Human Trafficking Program
The Human Trafficking Program offers critical services to survivors of human trafficking including crisis and long-term counseling and supportive services. These include criminal justice advocacy, as well as referrals to shelter, housing, medical, substance abuse, and vocational programs. The Department works diligently to develop partnerships on a local and national level that raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking, facilitate identification and referrals, and promote a holistic response to cases.
The Human Trafficking Department serves female and male domestic- and foreign-born victims of sex and labor trafficking. Services provided in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese include:
- Individual and group therapy provided by licensed clinicians
- Court advocacy
- Crisis counseling
- Community referrals
- Supportive services
- Case management
Department staff also conduct trainings and education sessions for professionals and community members regarding human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
Additional Articles & Resources:
- National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center
- Surviving the Streets of New York, Urban Institute, February 2015
- The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: the Girls’ Story, Center for Poverty and Inequality, 2015
- Modern Slavery: Labor trafficking is everywhere and nowhere, The Christian Science Monitor, October 26, 2015