Creating a Culture of Safety & Support: The Many Needs of Trafficking Victims & Survivors

Create a trusted space and welcoming environment. In the chaplain’s office, house of worship or religious facility, the physical and psychological safety is important to the health and wellbeing of victims and survivors. The physical setting must be private and safe, and interactions should promote a sense of safety and set a positive tone with those seeking help.


The safety of the victim and survivor is crucial.

The physical, emotional, and psychological safety of victims and survivors is crucial and needs to be considered when human trafficking occurs, as the victim decides to leave, and after the victim has left. Chaplains can assist with a safety assessment and safety planning to determine if the survivor is in imminent danger and what interventions may be available. A Chaplain can build rapport with the victim/survivor and, if the victim/survivor grants permission, can assist with connecting a victim to the correct support services. When safety planning with a victim/survivor:

  1. Listen to the victim/survivor and assess for current safety concerns
  2. Discuss with the victim/survivor that safety planning is an ongoing process and can and should be modified as circumstances change
  3. Assist the victim/survivor with developing actionable steps, for instance,
    • Take into account the immediate needs a victim/survivor may have.
    • Help the victim/survivor get away from any dangerous person or situation.
    • Connect the victim with providers to meet emergency needs for food, clothing, shelter, medical assistance, legal aid.
    • Assess other pressing needs, e.g., need for chemical detox, need for safety for their children.
  4. Retaliation: Long after a victim has escaped her trafficker, she may still fear retaliation. Recognizing and addressing that fear is important.

An example of a safety checklist can be found on the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

DoD Support Services can be found on Military One Source.

For Other Immediate Needs the Following Resources May Be Helpful:


If the victim chooses to speak with the command about the trafficking situation, the command may also be able to assist with:

  • Military Protective Order
  • No Contact Order
  • Transfer to a new location
  • Debarment or restriction of the trafficker/perpetrator from base
  • Coordinating Security Forces to conduct a safety check at base housing

Community-Based Organizations

These organizations bring well-developed networks, strong community trust, long-standing expertise serving refugees, victims of violence, and other populations in need. They also have the capacity to tailor services in their own community based on localized research and experience.

Community-based organizations can support the development of a protocol and serve as a primary referral for individuals for a variety of services, such as:

  • Housing
  • Food assistance
  • Interpretation/translation assistance
  • Childcare
  • Vocational training

Health Care – Acute and Chronic

Military Treatment Facilities and Community Health centers are essential for collaborating with professionals to identify and respond to human trafficking. Individual health care needs will vary, but may include:

  • Treatment for broken bones
  • Sexual assault forensic examination
  • Substance use treatment
  • Short- and long-term medical treatment, depending on the illness, injury, or infection
  • Long-term physical impact of trauma
  • Optometry, Dentistry, Ear Nose & Throat

Behavioral Health

Many individuals who have experienced trafficking have experienced multiple traumas over the course of their lives. They develop unique responses to these events as well as coping mechanisms. Behavioral health providers can help victims and survivors address their trauma through:

  • Counseling services
  • Treatment for mental health or substance use
  • Sexual assault trauma services
  • Short- and long-term therapy
  • Referrals for more specialized care
  • School-based counselors
  • Medication management

Legal aid

Legal aid professionals can provide services such as:

  • Assistance obtaining basic identification, including proof of age and name at birth; documents such as birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, and visa
  • Information about legal options and legal advocates
  • Coordinating with Law Enforcement for Immigration Relief. More info is available from the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking.
  • Applying for “T” or “U” visas for victims and their families for temporary or permanent residency
  • Helping with civilian orders of protection
  • Representing victims who testify against their traffickers
  • Assisting with documentation needed for eviction and housing issues
  • Vacatur and expungement relief for victims with a criminal history as a result of their trafficking
  • Family court

Law Enforcement (LE)

  • Law Enforcement within the DoD (Military Criminal Instigative Organizations and Security Forces) and in the local community: Report and respond to suspicious activity and will report human trafficking as required by law
  • Refer to victim advocacy service providers such as the Family Advocacy Program (FAP), Sexual Assault Prevention & Response program (SAPR), Victim Witness Advocacy Program (VWAP) and community supports
  • Provide a network of resources through a human trafficking task force, where available
  • When applicable, LE will assist with certification of Continued Presence and T-Visa paperwork to help individuals apply for immigration relief

Social Services

Many individuals who have experienced trafficking may benefit from resources related to housing, employment, benefits, or disability. These resources could include connections to:

  • Benefits (i.e., cash, food, or energy assistance for those with low incomes)
  • Childcare
  • DoD New Parent Support or community Head Start programs
  • Child support offices
  • Vocational assistance programs for individuals with disabilities

Survivors and Peer Mentors

Survivors are developing new programs to help mentor victims in many aspects of recovery including:

  • Life Skills (how to rent an apartment, open a bank account, shop, household responsibilities)
  • Literacy
  • Going back to school
  • Referral networks and partnerships
  • Job training and job placement
  • Entrepreneurial activities
  • Developing support systems

School-based Needs

Public educational institutions can provide a variety of services and resources for individuals who have experienced trafficking and their family members who are connected to educational institutions. For additional information, the DoD School Liaison Office (SLO) can provide additional information to connect individuals or families to other resources. Examples of services and resources that may be provided by educational institutions include:

  • School-based health centers
  • Counseling
  • Head Start programming
  • Literacy programs
  • Mentoring
  • Home visits
  • Before and after school programming
  • Parent support activities (e.g., parent’s night out, parenting classes, GED classes)
  • Accommodations for individuals struggling with school
  • Free or reduced meals, including on the weekend
  • Referrals to community resources
  • Informational materials and brochures on various topics (e.g., suicide prevention, bullying prevention, child abuse and neglect, healthy relationships, mental health)