Reaching Survivors of Human Trafficking in NYC
Developing creative channels to reach, support, and encourage oft-isolated and hard-to-reach victims of sex and labour trafficking.
This engagement is one of 16 New York City-based projects
selected and coordinated by desigNYC during 2012.
While many Americans imagine human trafficking only happening in other countries, there are an estimated 300,000 to 1 million trafficked persons within the United States. Reboot’s home base, New York City, is a top trafficking hub due to its substantial immigrant population, large runaway and homeless youth population, and its position as an international travel center.
Similar to misconceptions about where trafficking occurs, misunderstandings exist about victims of trafficking themselves. Survivors are male, female, and transgender; they are of every age (even children) and ethnic origin. Victims originate from within NYC as well as from other countries.
Victims of trafficking often accept their circumstances as normal, not knowing that they are being treated illegally or that services exist to aid them. Further, many trafficked persons are mistrustful of organizations that may be able to help them, sometimes as a result of negative experiences with institutions in their home countries.
Even if they are aware of their plight, many trafficked persons remain difficult to reach. They have little to no privacy, their personal belongings are monitored, and their movements are controlled, limiting the types of effective outreach strategies available for those who want to help them. Still other trafficked persons may not be literate, either in their native language or English, and are thus limited in their ability to seek help or understand outreach materials.
An inception workshop with Safe Horizon and desigNYC gave our team an understanding of the human trafficking ecosystem where Safe Horizon works and offered an opportunity for us to explore broader efforts in the space. It also helped our team generate ideas on the design challenge presented, and gain familiarity with the unique sensitivities around communicating with and about trafficked persons.
Next, we performed a deep analysis of past outreach efforts, from Safe Horizon’s existing client demographics to successful campaigns of other organizations in the space. From embedding information within non-suspect religious paraphernalia to covertly communicating information in the few places victims are allowed unsupervised, such as beauty salons, the anti-trafficking community has a history of finding innovating ways to reach trafficked persons.
Finally, we are interviewing experts throughout the space, from other service providers and advocacy groups to the legal community, law enforcement, and philanthropic foundations, in order to gain a complete, holistic view of the many complex issues involved in serving trafficked persons.
This analysis has helped us to determine an initial target population: we will be focusing on Latina women who are sex-trafficked. Choosing a specific demographic enables us to finely tailor our communications to personally connect with those we are trying to reach, resulting in a far more effective campaign than one that attempts to generally target all trafficked persons. Once we have succeeded with this initial population, we will then explore how our approach can be adapted to successfully target other demographics.
Currently, we are preparing to begin interviews with persons in our target population. We are maintaining extensive documentation on all of our work so Safe Horizon can use this work as a foundation for future initiatives.
Finally, we are examining and creating new ways to track the effectiveness of our campaigns. This is a uniquely vexing challenge in this field, and as such it is rarely done. It is our hope that Safe Horizon and others will be able to use the metrics we develop in order to measure the success of their other outreach campaigns.
Building upon past successes, Reboot looks forward to continuing to support Safe Horizon in its anti-trafficking work. We’ll keep you posted as we tackle this important issue.