Interviewing victims of human trafficking: Survivors offer advice

By Holly Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Communities Digital News

RICHMOND, VA, March 1, 2014 – Recently, I discussed with law enforcement interviewing techniques when working with potential victims of human trafficking. As a survivor of child sex trafficking, I wrote an academic nonfiction book on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in the United States, titled Walking Prey.  Although I do share my personal story in Walking Prey, this book is much more than a memoir. I discuss predisposing factors and community risk factors for CSEC, as well as the potential mindset of a “willing victim”.

A child victim who does not self-identify as such is often referred to as a “willing victim,” as was I at age fourteen in 1992. In Walking Prey, I discuss “willing victims” in order to offer victim-centered insight to law enforcement and other first responders and victim advocates. My hope is that such insight will help professionals interview and care for such victims. When offering tips to law enforcement, I often pull from my resources in Walking Prey. However, I believe that additional insight from other survivors of human trafficking is needed in order to offer comprehensive advice on interviewing techniques.  Following are quotes from a few survivors of sex and labor trafficking within America.

Trust, trust, trust…Building the rapport, trust, and relationship with victims takes time and patience…it is essential for [human trafficking] cases…[this is] one big reason why these cases are different from any other and [why] specialized training is needed. [Plan for m]ultiple contacts, multiple interviews. [Have p]atience! Never expect the victim to give you all, or even hardly any, intel the first interview. The first few meetings are you gaining their trust and building rapport. You will most likely get tiny bits of info, which will grow little by little, and over time pieces will come together.  – Anonymous Survivor and Consultant for the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators (IAHTI)

Read the article on the Communities Digital News website

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