Survivors of human trafficking play a vital role in combating this crime. Jeri Moomaw, one of the Department’s Network consultants, rightly notes that survivors built and continue to sustain the movement to combat human trafficking in a manner that reflects the realities and needs of those currently experiencing exploitation. Understanding their perspectives and experiences should be prioritized to better address this crime and to improve our collective response to it. However, much work remains to create opportunities for responsibly engaging and elevating survivors’ expertise.
“We, as survivors, have truly fought our way to create this movement. At first, we were not included in truly meaningful ways. It was common to be pressured into sharing our story or giving up hours for organizations to “pick our brain” without compensation or decision-making power. I am proud that we are making great strides towards including and hiring survivors in ALL areas of the movement!”Jeri MoomawMember of the Department of State Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network
For the last few years, the TIP Report has increasingly highlighted the importance of governments engaging with survivors and implementing trauma-informed approaches when doing so. The Department of State is committed to integrating survivors’ expertise and applying trauma-informed approaches, and the TIP Report is stronger for it. This year’s introduction highlights and emphasizes the importance of meaningful survivor engagement and shares context, lessons learned, and guidance to governments, international organizations, civil society, private sector entities, and other stakeholders who wish to further their survivor engagement efforts. Now more than ever, collaborating with individuals with lived experience of human trafficking as experts is critical to successful anti-trafficking responses, especially in the wake of multiple crises and emerging vulnerabilities. Hopefully, this report’s introduction will serve as a resource for our global partners seeking to improve their anti-trafficking efforts by integrating survivors’ expertise.
Another key priority, for which this report can also serve as a resource, is increasing our efforts to meaningfully incorporate equity in our anti-trafficking work. The 2021 TIP Report highlighted the connection between systemic racism and human trafficking in a special topic box, emphasizing that systemic racism continues to create socioeconomic inequalities that traffickers exploit. This year’s report further prioritizes integrating an equity-based approach with country narratives featuring enhanced reporting on underserved communities and assessing delivery of justice and services to victims among these populations. The Department is committed to drawing attention to the vulnerabilities that human traffickers routinely exploit, especially as they pertain to individuals from marginalized or underserved communities and urging governments to identify and assist all victims.Among the vulnerabilities that human traffickers routinely exploit are those created or exacerbated by crises.
This year’s report has been released in the midst of a significant humanitarian crisis. Russia’s unprovoked continued invasion of Ukraine and its devastating attacks across that country have inflicted unfathomable pain and suffering and forced millions of Ukrainian citizens and others to flee seeking safety. We are deeply concerned about the risks of human trafficking faced by individuals internally displaced by the war, as well as those forced to flee Ukraine, an estimated 90 percent of whom are women and children. Furthermore, climate related crises exacerbate insecurities that directly increase trafficking risks for vulnerable populations. For example, vulnerable communities such as displaced populations, migrants, Indigenous communities, women and children, and minority populations are more likely to experience climate change impacts and, consequently, are even more vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking, largely due to lost livelihoods and disrupted family arrangements. Studies have estimated that by 2050, 150 million people could be displaced due to the climate crisis—traffickers target such displaced people.
Despite navigating overlapping crises and challenges that emerge from these changes in our world, the successes achieved through collaboration and innovation in the anti-trafficking field bring us hope. Through partnerships, adaptability, and integrating the guidance of those with lived experience, we can and must continue to improve our anti-trafficking efforts. We all have a role to play—whether in government, civil society, the private sector, or as citizens and consumers. Inspired and guided by the survivors who have led this movement, let’s recommit our efforts to advance this shared fight to end human trafficking.
About the Author: Dr. Kari Johnstone serves as Acting Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) at the U.S. Department of State.