To foster a community of service providers for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation that work together to improve competency, increase credibility, and become a collective voice for change.
Estimates for the number of people at risk of becoming trafficking victims in the United States varies, widely, from 100,000 to 300,000. What is most consistently expressed is the dearth of qualified shelter care programs to aid victims in their healing and restoration back into society.
At present there is no credentialed, professional preparation specific to those serving victims of trafficking. There is no specific licensure for programs serving this population. There is no national accrediting body asserting standards of care.
The U.S. Government has been taking the issue of domestic sex trafficking seriously since 2010, a mere seven years. After a national survey in 2017, research found that the average amount of time direct service agencies have been serving victims is 5.28 years. This is a very young field. At the same time, over the past 2 years there are several agencies that have not survived their first year of operation. Burn-out, financial instability, and lack of a program are the most common causes. Burn-out has been largely attributed to a sense of isolation and lack of support.
The work of restoring survivors of sex trafficking is not only difficult work, but an entirely new field. Very little peer reviewed research exists within the literature regarding best practices for therapeutically engaging both adult or minor survivors of sex trafficking. Promising practices are developed through trial and error, and most importantly, through the sharing of those results with other organizations. A national alliance is the perfect environment for new promising practices to be discussed and tested.
The organizations working in the field of trafficking survivor rehabilitation know the difficulty of the work that stems from the degree of trauma endured by these survivors. These men, women, and children are among the most traumatized individuals within our society, and bringing them to a place of healing takes a toll on those working directly with the survivors. A national alliance provides a like-minded community that allows for the sharing of difficulties, frustrations, and successes as well as a resource to help deal with the unusual situations in this developing field.
Melissa is the Director of the National Trafficking Sheltered Alliance. For nearly 8 years Melissa worked at The Samaritan Women, a long-term restoration home for survivors of domestic human trafficking. She has seen firsthand how isolating it is for those working with survivors of sexual exploitation and is passionate about building a community that empowers and encourages those in the trenches every day.
While at The Samaritan Women, Melissa worked to increase awareness and deepen community engagement on issues around human trafficking, spearheaded advocacy campaigns, hosted nation-wide gatherings and conferences, and supported staff and residents through their spiritual journey.
Prior to joining The Samaritan Women, Melissa worked with the White House’s Faith-based and Community Outreach Office at the United States Agency for International Development, Dr. Ron Sider with Evangelicals for Social Action, and with Bread for the World.
Melissa has her master’s degree in International Development from Eastern University and her bachelor’s in International Relations from American University.
Rachel is the Alliance Membership Coordinator for the National Trafficking Sheltered Alliance. Rachel has been working in international development for 4 years. In that time she has worked with at risk populations, driven by a passion for empowering people in the face of poverty and exploitation.
Before joining the Alliance team, Rachel worked in Uganda at Akola Project, a social business striving towards women’s empowerment, and Bright Hope, a small non-profit doing international development with communities in extreme poverty in five countries.
Rachel has a master’s degree in International Development from Eastern University and a bachelor’s in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago.