April 09, 2020
Serving survivors of human trafficking is new. So new, that despite an abundance of funding being allocated for organizations to “help” and “stop” human trafficking, there isn’t much out there other than training, and the training is usually about safety and housing issues (which are highly necessary).
Legal Aid of WV is one of the only organizations serving these survivors in West Virginia outside of shelters, and currently we are the only organization that can report on and ensure that their rights are not being violated by the many misinformed systems we have in place to protect them.
Recent experiences with a human trafficking case have shown that West Virginia’s programs, like CPS, are not properly prepared for cases with elements of human trafficking. We need to encourage more training, focused on providing trauma-informed resources for victims of human trafficking. We also need to build bridges with one another so that we can share information and rely upon each other’s expertise.
Here are a few takeaways based on our experience so far. Just because someone has “human trafficking” in their title does not mean they understand the severity and complexity of the problem we have as a people nor the problems survivors have individually.
Also, while human trafficking in West Virginia does not look like the Liam Neeson movie Taken, the atrocities being committed are far darker and broader than many could imagine.
Whether it is gang-related human trafficking activity taking place at beloved local dive bars or human slave auctions that connect victims in West Virginia with a trafficker from New York who is currently in the press, the dark places of humanity have spread to the hills of West Virginia.
Legal Aid of WV now quietly finds itself standing on the frontline - one of the only professional organizations (and the only legal organization) - shining a light to ensure that these survivors reclaim and retain their legal and humanitarian rights in the Mountain State.
For more information on human trafficking at Legal Aid of WV, please reach out to staff attorney Jessica Carter.