The voices ring through the ages. From the Biblical past through to the modern day, those who have escaped the bondage of slavery have told the stories of what they endured and how they moved forward on the path to freedom.
In the United States, chapters of our history are written in the voices of those who toiled in slavery. Whether through the memoirs of men and women who sought their freedom from a then-legal institution on the Underground Railroad or the impassioned pleas of African Americans and immigrants trapped in sharecropping and peonage in the years after the Civil War, slavery’s brutal toll has been given witness time and again by those who suffered and survived.
What do they tell us? How do the voices of the past and present help inform our struggle against modern slavery?
They tell us that victims of this crime are not waiting helplessly for a rescuer, but are willing to take the chance to get out once they know it is possible. They tell us that modern-day slavery’s victims are like anyone else—mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, seeking better lives for themselves and their families. Survivors tell us that what they want is the opportunity to move on with their lives.
Our challenge as we face the 150th anniversary of Emancipation is to deliver on that promise; to apply history’s lessons to the modern crime.
This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report focuses on how to make victim protection—part of the 3P Paradigm of prevention, prosecution, and protection—most effective for helping survivors get their lives back on track. In these pages are specific guides and examples of what victim protection looks like when it succeeds, as well as when it fails. But if a single notion should guide the way governments and caregivers come to the aid of victims, it is the goal of restoring what was lost and providing meaningful choices for the path forward. And that requires listening to their experiences and incorporating their perspectives, to make a reality of the concept “nothing about them without them.”
This Report tells us that some governments are doing this well, using practices that work and making needed resources available. It also tells us that some governments are treating victims as criminals or ignoring them entirely. Ultimately, it tells us that everyone must do more, and that we do not yet have the solutions that will eradicate this crime once and for all. But every day, with the commitment of governments and civil society, the private sector and concerned individuals, those solutions are increasingly within reach.
The voices of survivors—whether calling from the past or ringing out in a courtroom in 2012—are a sad reminder that the struggle against modern-day slavery is a long fight still not won. They are a reminder that if governments shirk their responsibility to bring traffickers to justice and to help victims on their road to recovery, the intolerable yoke of modern-day slavery will persist. As we strive to deliver on the promise of freedom, let us vow together that survivors’ stories will not be forgotten and that their lessons will guide us forward.