Filling a Gap: FYSB Grantee Addresses Domestic Human Trafficking in Utah

A young woman hiding behind a tree.

The Asian Association of Utah’s Refugee and Immigrant Center in Salt Lake City is one of three programs chosen last fall to take part in a new 2-year demonstration project aimed at helping victims of severe trafficking. As the Family & Youth Services Bureau-funded project begins, we asked Elizabeth Hendrix, director of trafficking in persons for the Refugee and Immigrant Center, to tell us about her organization’s goals when it comes to this project in particular and wider efforts to combat trafficking in Utah.

History of providing services to victims: “We started providing services for foreign-born victims of trafficking in 2010. Since then, we have gotten really involved in working with human trafficking.”

Reason her organization applied for the grant: “It’s become apparent to us that there are more services needed for domestic victims of trafficking of all ages. There is a major gap there, and this grant allows us to address that need. This is a new population for us to be able to serve.”

Focus of the project: “Collaborative Responses to Empower Survivors of Trafficking will focus on building and enhancing other organizations’ abilities to serve victims of sex and labor trafficking and building knowledge around Utah. We want to train other service providers on how to recognize trafficking, what to do if you come across it, and let them know what the resources are. Through CREST, the Refugee and Immigration Center will also provide direct case management and support to victims through our office, and we will provide referrals across the state.

What the center wants to achieve: “This is a 2-year grant demonstration program, so we’re trying out a package of services and some ways to embed knowledge within the community. We’re trying a few different things, and an external evaluator will follow the program. At the end of the two years, we will document best practices and lessons learned, and we will continue to provide these services to the population we serve.”

Who the center is working with: “We are working really closely with domestic violence victim organizations, rape crisis centers, medical providers, law enforcement, mental health professionals, substance abuse treatment centers, and more. Anyone that will have us, we will train. And we will also continue to provide direct services. For service providers who are already providing resources, CREST will give them a better understanding of how to provide victim-centered services for trafficking victims.”

What it means to be "victim-centered": “The biggest thing is to meet the victim where they are and not push your own goals or program objective onto a person if they’re not ready.  You ask the question, ‘What happened to you?’ and understand what their needs are and what they perceive their needs to be. We look for ways to be supportive even if it’s a little different than [what] we usually do. If there’s a culturally specific way someone feels they need to go through a healing process, we do that. To us, it means orienting the services around the victim, rather than the other way around."

Challenges so far: “One challenge we’ve seen is that as we reach into rural areas, there is not much awareness of sex or labor trafficking. People just don’t know to be looking for it particularly outside of Salt Lake City, so I think the learning curve for us across the state is going to be a challenge.”

Learn more about FYSB's Services for Domestic Victims of Human Trafficking program.

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