Thursday, December 14, 2017

C. Fund Domestic and Native Victim-Specific Services

The Department of Justice made “enhanc[ing] the efficacy and parity of services provided to U.S. citizen, LPR, and foreign national victims of trafficking” a priority for 2010. Instead of simple rhetoric, this priority should be codified in the upcoming TVPA reauthorization. Specifically, a provision should be added to the TVPA that mirrors Section 107(b)(1)(A) and provides guaranteed, trafficking victim-specific services to domestic victims. As with foreign victims, these services should include cash assistance and access to immediate shelter that will be reimbursed by HHS, as well as any other services found to be crucial to domestic victims. These guaranteed services would be a drastic improvement in U.S. anti-trafficking efforts, especially for American Indian women living in rural areas far from the large NGOs that receive federal OVC grants.

The other TVPA protection provisions also need to be funded and, more importantly, actively implemented. Although three TVPA reauthorizations have tipped the numerical balance of protection provisions in favor of domestic victims, the authors of the HHS, Senior Policy Operating Group, and Shattered Hearts reports all expressed deep concern about the significant lack of funding for domestically trafficked women making it extraordinarily difficult to assist these women. The DOJ and HHS must make a concerted effort to direct more of the currently authorized funds and services to NGOs that work with domestic victims and ensure that more general federal funding programs apply equally to domestic victims.

In addition, the pilot juvenile residential treatment program included in the 2005 TVPA reauthorization should be redrafted to mandate the establishment of residential programs for minors and adults. Victim advocates have identified residential treatment programs as one of the most important services trafficking victims can receive because they are comprehensive, long-term, and offer what victims need most urgently--shelter. This is especially true for Native victims, many of whom were introduced to sex work as children in order to survive and thus never obtained the education or job training needed to live independently. In light of generational trauma, long-term programs are particularly important for Native victims because it takes an “extensive period of time ... to build enough trust [to the point where] prostituted Native women and girls are open to considering that they are being exploited ....”

It is crucial that a significant amount of the funds and services allocated to domestic victims be set aside to fund victim service programs in rural areas and tribal reservations. In addition to major interstate hubs, these are the United States' trafficking source regions. Funds to reservations were recently increased under VAWA to address sexual violence in tribal communities. These funds should be expanded to specifically include sex trafficking. Alternatively, the TVPA 2012 reauthorization should include a grant program for tribes and NGOs that serve predominantly Native victims. These funds are critical because Native victims benefit from culturally specific interventions. Centuries of mistrust of federal and state law enforcement and service providers means that the most successful victim interventions will come from within the American Indian community. As has been done for Native domestic violence and sexual assault victims, the new Office of Tribal Justice--using TVPA funds--should facilitate the formation of tribal coalitions across the United States that train tribal law enforcement, government, and health and social workers in the provision of culturally appropriate services for trafficking victims.

Finally, efforts should be taken to improve those services already available to domestic victims. Professionals administering mainstream public assistance programs should receive training in trafficking victim identification and assistance. Likewise, the 2012 TVPA reauthorization should repeal the anti-prostitution pledge in order to increase the number of organizations likely to encounter domestic victims.

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