Exploring Safety Planning for Survivors

Human trafficking is a profoundly painful experience, exacerbated when the exploiter is known to a survivor as her father, partner, mother, aunt, uncle, or sibling. Sometimes, more than one family member or trusted individual can be involved. A layer of trauma is further added when abuse and violence are used as a tactic. Human trafficking and domestic violence both rely on a skewed power dynamic maintained through some combination of physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and economic abuse, as well as isolation. Perpetrators often use a cycle of violence characterized by intermittent periods of “love,” promises of a better future, shame, manipulation, and violence.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to acknowledge a pervasive problem affecting millions of people and again focus our attention on breaking the cycle of abuse that shatters so many lives. Domestic violence (also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV), dating abuse, or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

For the women who have suffered domestic violence, LifeWay’s safe house is not just home, but a safe space to rebuild. Safety planning is a major step within the rebuilding process. The mere fact that a woman resides in the safe house does not mean real danger ceases to exist in the outside world. Various scenarios can unfold, and there are occasions where preparation is needed in case a resident crosses paths with her trafficker. She may need to go to court with the perpetrator, may ride the same train, or may even have a network in common with the trafficker. Regardless of the scenario, LifeWay can facilitate a safety planning process.

Sabrina Zottoli, LifeWay’s Social Worker, explains safety planning is about being proactive. If a situation arises, there are options. While not every survivor may be in immediate danger (i.e their trafficker lives in a different country, is incarcerated, or deceased), for those who express safety concerns, creation of a safety plan is essential. Zottoli asks survivors questions such as, “Who are three people you might call if you need help?” She keeps in mind that a safety plan may need to be revisited, or developed if  circumstances change for a resident.

Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing Domestic Violence, safety planning is an option. People of any race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, education level, or economic status can be a victim — or a perpetrator. Abuse includes behaviors that physically harm, intimidate, manipulate or control a partner, or otherwise force them to behave in ways they don’t want to, including through physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, or financial control. There are options. Consider the resources, below.

“Regardless of the circumstances of your relationship or past, no one ever deserves to be abused and you’re never responsible for your partner’s abusive actions.” https://www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/abuse-and-cultural-context/

Warning signs of abuse: https://www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/warning-signs-of-abuse/

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)

Safety Planning: www.safehorizon.org/our-services/safety-plan/


© 2018 The Human Trafficking Legal Center Citation: Bessell, Sarah, “Fact Sheet: Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence,” The Human Trafficking Legal Center; 2018; https://www.htlegalcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/Human-Trafficking-and-Domestic-Violence-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash