Empowering Survivor Leadership in the Movement – HTAM 2022


It’s January 1, 2022, and today marks the beginning of Human Trafficking Awareness Month! For the National Survivor Network, it also marks a new beginning. Throughout the month of January, our new Survivor Leadership Program Manager is meeting with a small but committed group of activists, advocates, educators, researchers, and community organizers who all have lived experience that fits the federal definition of “severe forms of human trafficking.” This group includes survivors of trafficking in the sex trades as well as other forms of labor, queer and trans survivors, immigrant survivors, BIPOC survivors, survivors of CSEC/DMST and adult trafficking, and people for whom the label “survivor of human trafficking” has always felt off or confusing. This group will be reviewing all of the NSN’s foundational documents: our clarified values and membership agreement, our membership application processes, and all documents outlining expectations and policies for members. We look forward to looping in our full membership as these documents are ready, and to re-opening applications for membership later this year. 

As we enter a month in which human trafficking awareness is in everybody’s social media feed and on everyone’s mind, our awareness is focused on the work at the heart of the National Survivor Network – empowering survivor leadership in the movement. We know that we will end trafficking when, and only when, survivors are at the forefront of every initiative, every project, every program. We believe that survivors have so much more to offer the anti-trafficking movement than our stories, and we know that when survivors have the right kinds of supports and opportunities, the movement is transformed by our visionary leadership, unending dedication, and sharp insights. 

And yet we also know that survivors do not always receive the support we need to excel in movement work. We are often brought into workspaces that are not trauma-informed to do work we have not been adequately prepared to do, and often without mentoring on how to negotiate contracts, set professional boundaries, or supervise and manage project teams. We are asked to hold space for others’ trauma without meaningful crisis response training, and we often do our best even when we are exhausted and overwhelmed because the systems that could prevent trafficking are often inadequate, overtaxed, or have huge gaps. 

And when we struggle, it is often blamed on our trauma, or our lack of knowledge, or our not being fit for certain kinds of work. We’re seen as not healed enough, not ready, not smart enough, or not capable of navigating professional workspaces. Many survivors leave their movement work shredded, burned out, and cynical, and rarely does the anti-trafficking movement turn its microscope around to examine how its own practices, policies, and approach is often inherently harmful to survivor leaders. 

This Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the NSN is going to be sharing tips, reminders, and practices for anti-trafficking professionals and organizational leadership, both with and without lived experience, on how to support survivor leadership in the anti-human trafficking movement. Each day, our social media will share a suggestion on trauma-informed, survivor-friendly practices for engaging survivor leadership, and at the end of the month, we’ll share the full list here on our website. Follow along on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn

We’ll also be adding fundraising campaigns throughout the month in our Bonfire store. This merchandise will align with our HTAM campaign, and 100% of the proceeds from sales will be designated by to support our survivor leadership direct aid fund. In 2021, we were able to put $15,000 in direct aid into the hands of survivors, as well as another $10,000 in scholarship funding, thanks to the generosity of our donors. In the future, this fund might allow us to provide additional funds to survivors. 

Thank you for following along with our HTAM campaign, and for your support of the National Survivor Network. Together, we can empower survivors by transforming our organizations and professional practices. Together, we can end human trafficking. 

See our full list of practices and tips here!