Exploring Safety Planning for Survivors of Trafficking, Domestic Violence

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 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 in 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. 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.

Twanna Warren, LifeWay’s director of safe housing, explains that 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 is deceased), for those who express safety concerns, creation of a safety plan is essential. Warren 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.

Warren will be hosting a domestic violence workshop for LifeWay safe house residents in the coming weeks. The goal is for the women to learn about resources and to create a personalized safety plan. The event will end with a community dinner.

Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. 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. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, safety planning is an option.

“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.” www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/abuse-and-cultural-context/

Warning Signs of Abuse:www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or text START to 88788

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: Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash