Last month in Thailand, O.U.R. was invited by the FBI to participate in their Responding to Victims of Human Trafficking training, put on by the FBI’s Office of Victims Assistance. The goal of this training is to set a standard across the board in which governments, local police, NGOs and social workers can operate on victim centered investigations and victim identification. But what does this mean? In almost every case of the trafficking of minors, the underage victims are coached by their captors to lie about their age, the fact that they are being coerced into this work, and to lie about where they come from. They are even given fake Identification documents with different names, ages, and purpose of work. Often, the victims are told that Westerners will sell them for body parts or various other gruesome acts, leaving the victims too scared to ask for help or trust someone offering help. The captors do this because they know that many NGOs such as O.U.R. are looking for the minors in order to set them free. By instilling fear of the very people that want to help, the captor exercises more control and dominance over the victim. For these reasons, a training program aimed to identify a victim is extremely important because in many raids, the information given by the coached victims would lead one to believe that they are there by choice, not that they are in fact scared, hurt, and enslaved. It is crucial to set up a system in which investigators, police, and social workers can use their own training and knowledge to identify a victim, even if it is contrary to what the victim is actually saying. This helps ensure that no slave is left behind or overlooked simply because they were perceived to be there by their own volition.
The FBI training in Thailand focuses on victim recognition by basing investigations around the victims needs. This is done by learning different methods of interviewing in which the interviewer is sensitive to the traumatization of the victim and comes from a place of understanding the circumstances and backgrounds of sexually trafficked minors. Another goal of the FBI training is to work with foreign and local governments to combat trafficking. Rather than have many groups that attempt to combat trafficking on their own, this training is designed to bring local and foreign governments, NGOs, social workers, and police forces together to create a standard under which all parties operate. O.U.R.’s Director of Regional Operations says, “It is important for O.U.R. to be in attendance of these trainings. One, it maintains a healthy relationship between us and the U.S. government, and two, it helps us network and connect with trusted local law enforcement, passionate about the same cause.”
The ultimate goal now for O.U.R. is to continue participating in such trainings with the FBI and to bring this type of collaborative, victim focused training to countries in which O.U.R. is currently operating but does not yet exist.
The problem of human trafficking becomes larger and more widespread by the day and we must come together, strong and unified, to save those in need.