Victim Services Committee

The goal of the victim services committee is to ensure that high quality, appropriate services are available to victims of trafficking, regardless of gender, race, age, and demographics. The committee should implement procedures that ensure smooth referrals and collaboration among involved agencies. The victim services committee is made up of agencies and nonprofit groups from a variety of fields. The committee should engage in creating resource or asset maps or referral lists (sometimes referred to as a Coordinated Service Referral Network) to identify go-to organizations and existing gaps in services, referral agreements, and critical services. All members of the committee should be transparent about what services, at what capacity, and which victim types can be served by their respective agencies so that gaps are clearly identified and met.  

Key Concept: Coordinated Service Referral Network (CSRN)

CSRN is a membership-based network of service providers and others who are currently providing legal and social services to victims of human trafficking. CSRN recruits and identifies organizations that provide different services and organize those services into “pathways” to accommodate the various needs of clients. This information is collected and made available through a dynamic online resource. Social service providers who become members of the CSRN system are trained on human trafficking and receive a certification of training before acceptance into the network. Since law enforcement entities often lack the resources or expertise to find the right placement for recovered human trafficking victims, the core victim service providers within the task force may overcome this obstacle by taking responsibility for the social service referrals through a CSRN. By maintaining the CSRN, the core victim service providers can outsource the specialized services they cannot supply, and they can do so from a certified list of providers appropriately trained to handle human trafficking cases.

No wrong door. Victims identified through task force activities should be able to enter through any organization, law enforcement, victim service provider, or other engaged member and be connected with the most appropriate service provider based upon their needs. While task forces do this differently, the key is to identify the providers who can provide intensive case management to victims. They may have specialization or limited capacity. Task Force members refer victims they encounter through their work to the appropriate case manager. The case manager is then responsible for conducting an individual needs assessment and assisting the victim in accessing the services and supports needed to attain her/his goals. One organization cannot meet all the diverse needs that a victim of human trafficking may have, but through collaboration and partnerships of the victim services committee, and other resources in the community, regardless of how they come into contact with the task force, their needs will be appropriately assessed and met. Creating a referral mechanism that outlines the roles and responsibilities of the various service organizations is critical to streamline the process to ensure a victim does not fall through the cracks based on miscommunication or lack of coordination among victim service providers.

Victim service partnerships are driven by the needs of the victims. Through the victim services committee, service providers should regularly review the resources available based on the needs victims identify. As gaps are identified, committee members should work to leverage partnerships and resources. For example, if a task force’s only trafficking cases involved U.S. citizen victims, but it is expanding to address foreign national victims, then the victim services committee must strategically identify local, state, and federal resources available for foreign national victims, and proactively identify organizations that should be invited to join the victim services committee. Likewise, if a task force only worked with adult victims, it may need to identify providers with programs that specialize in meeting the needs of youth. The victim services committee may even develop working groups that focus on particular subpopulations of human trafficking victims.

Strategic and informed partnerships with the community and pro bono resources. Human trafficking victims have a diverse range of needs, many of which may be outside the scope of services available through the task force members. Developing relationships with key professionals, such as doctors, dentists, or attorneys who are willing to provide pro bono services to trafficking victims, is a common strategy employed by the victim services committee. Through these relationships, a victim can receive access to much more comprehensive services. It is critical that any pro bono professional is properly vetted; receives training on what to expect when working with human trafficking survivors given the nature of the victimization and the related trauma; and learns some practical strategies for adapting the way they interface with the survivor to be more trauma informed. For example, attorneys may need assistance in understanding that victims may provide inconsistent statements and may be unclear about when things happened, or may be unwilling to disclose the details of their victimization. Attorneys may offer to help without realizing the complexity of the work, time involved, and length of time some processes take. See Section 3.3 on Civil Legal Needs Resources for low-cost legal assistance.

For example, one task force noticed that pro bono immigration attorneys were frustrated by the constant calls from their victim clients wanting an update on the status of their T visa application. The victim services committee was able to explain that victims of trauma, particularly those who experience situations involving lack of power and control, often exhibit behaviors that appear unreasonable to others, but are actually appropriate responses to trauma. The committee was able to give the attorney some practical tips in setting expectations and boundaries and redirecting the client to their case manager.

Task forces also may need to examine the use of interpreters. For example, while volunteer interpreters may have years of interpreting experience and a strong command of English and the victim’s native language, they may not have worked with a highly traumatized population, like victims of human trafficking. In these situations, interpreters may feel tempted to offer emotional or monetary support outside of the interpreting assignment. Again, the victim services committee can offer practical tips and strategies on setting boundaries and redirecting the client to their case manager.

Victim service providers should work with pro bono attorneys to reduce turnover in client representation, build trust and rapport, and coordinate support and mental health care with legal appointments to ensure that victims are supported in processing their trauma.

Foster communication between law enforcement and other service providers in the region. Victim service provider task force members should work to broker relationships and channel communication among law enforcement and the larger group of organizations and victim advocates doing human trafficking work within the region. By serving as designated points of contact for questions, disputes, and requests, the task force members can become the trusted brokers who prevent much of the confusion, misunderstandings, and negative experiences that often arise from untrained, multi-lateral interaction between individuals on both sides of the victim service provider–law enforcement divide. Most critically, law enforcement will need to know whom to contact when they encounter a victim of human trafficking—at any hour or any day. Organizing this response through the victim services committee and memorializing it in a formal protocol means that the collective resources of all the various victim service provider members can be used. For example, maybe one victim service provider has the resources to staff a full-time case manager, but that case manager is limited in the hours she/he can work that are outside the traditional work week. But another victim service provider has a hotline that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has staff who can respond to emergency calls. Strategizing this coordination among victim service providers in a way that ensures there is always someone available to respond to law enforcement’s referral is key. Creating a formal protocol allows the members to discuss the referral options openly and fully, without the pressure of a client in crisis.

For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 3.1 Task Force Membership & Management.