Did you know there's a "trafficking victims' bill of rights" -- and that it's US federal law?
...until I went to a special training last week led by my friend and colleague Giselle Rodriguez. Giselle is state outreach coordinator for the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, of which I'm a member.
A lot of people in the audience were service providers who work with rescued victims -- yet honestly most of them didn't know that federal law mandates specific protocols for victim assistance.
Giselle told us, for example, that if you work with rescued victims you legally have to offer them:
- Privacy and safety
- Medical and psychological attention
- Legal representation
- Translators (if they speak another language)
- Mandatory restitution
- The right to seek residency
- And many other protocols
They can refuse any of these but you do have to offer them.
They're all part of the "trafficking victims' bill of rights," which you can find in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Scroll down to Section 107, Section C.
TVPA is US federal law. According to Giselle, TVPA's bill of rights mirrors the one found in the UN Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, an international treaty that mandates protection for trafficking victims.
"Once you learn about the issue of human trafficking," Giselle told me, "it's important to read the TVPA. It serves as a guideline of (a) what human trafficking is defined as, (b) what the US has stated are its goals to combat human trafficking, and (c) what the federal government mandates us, especially service providers, to do when working with a victim of human trafficking.
"TVPA is a victim-centered law yet too many of us are not following the bill of rights that the TVPA has set," she added. "In fact we may be causing harm to the very people we all want to help."
The fact that we even had this training shows:
1. How far the anti-trafficking movement has come. A few years ago, most people didn't see trafficking victims as, well, victims. (You'd hear comments such as, "She asked for it" and other ignorant remarks.) (OK, we still hear that and more.)
2. How far we still have to go.
BTW, Giselle is an expert on anti-trafficking and travels all over the country giving trainings on this and other aspects of stopping the traffic. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to your organization.