'Margins of the Margins': FYSB Grantee Coordinates Response to Trafficking in New York

A young person wearing a hoodie stands in front of graffiti

New York City’s Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families is one of three programs chosen 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 Jesenia Santana, Edwin Gould’s manager of advocacy services and senior policy advisor, to tell us about her organization’s goals when it comes to this project in particular and wider efforts to combat trafficking in New York.

History of providing services to victims: “We serve as an Alternatives for Incarceration program at the Midtown Community Court. We are one of the direct service providers for trauma survivors who are charged with prostitution.”

Reason her organization applied for the grant: “This demonstration project is specifically meant to create a collaborative community response [to severe trafficking], and we were collaborating with the court and the Legal Aid Society to try and serve this population. Many of these clients are at the margins of the margins--with the duality of being survivors and defendants.”

How Edwin Gould is using some of the funding: “[The project] allows us to designate a staff member as an anti-trafficking coordinator. We’ve also hired a new senior counselor to work with survivors who are both in the court system and not.”

Who the organization is working with: “We partnered with the Harlem Community & Academic Partnership, who will be doing some data analysis and community scan. We can inform policy makers and stakeholders about what actually works and how to achieve that.

“We developed a working group that includes agencies that will provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. They will be able to do the work that we don’t have the cultural and linguistic capacity to do. We eventually want to expand that working group and create a resource manual that’s applicable to all stakeholders and survivors—where are services, what they provide. There are a lot of resource listings in the city but they’re not coordinated.

“A big component is training—we’ll be scheduling outreach and workshops focusing on foster care agencies, the city Administration for Children’s Services, schools, shelters, and youth facilities.”

Why the project is needed: “New York is one of the major entry points for a lot of trafficking activity in the U.S. The numbers indicate how much it happens. Society needs to reframe the faulty narrative of who individuals charged with prostitution are and instead, enhance support and services available to them.”

On the role of trauma-informed practices: “We need to be enhancing trauma-informed practice in the service of trafficking survivors. Supply them with the legal help they need, the housing assistance they need if an arrest endangers their housing. We need progressive and innovative counseling, such as Integrated Movement Therapy, which we use to support our clients in connecting with their bodies. Their bodies have been commodified, so we need to look at how to support them in reconnecting with it.”

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

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