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DCJS Releases Report on Human Trafficking Services Needs Assessment Survey

October 17, 2012 | Virginia News

The purpose of the survey was to obtain information on the needs of human trafficking victims and victim service providers in Virginia. The idea for conducting a survey stemmed primarily from discussions during meetings of the Victim Assistance Workgroup of the Victims of Human Trafficking Initiative (VHTI), a statewide collaborative effort led by the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) and the Virginia Steering Committee Against Human Trafficking (VASCAHT).

The passage of House Bill 2190 during the 2011 Virginia General Assembly Session directed the VDSS to develop a plan: (1) to identify victims of human trafficking, (2) to provide victim assistance, and (3) to develop public outreach and educational materials for victims of human trafficking. As a result, the VASCAHT and three workgroups (Victim Identification, Victim Assistance, and Public Outreach and Education) were formed.

During the Victim Assistance Workgroup meetings, group members expressed a desire to have more information on the needs of human trafficking victims, as a lack of data makes it difficult to advocate for new or enhanced systems and services. This survey seeks to provide Virginia-specific data on the needs of trafficking victims and service providers, in order to best inform victim assistance and service delivery.


Report on the Human Trafficking Services Needs Assessment Survey
Relatively limited information exists on the needs of human trafficking victims and the needs of service providers working to meet those needs in Virginia, therefore an online needs assessment survey on human trafficking services was conducted by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) in the summer of 2012. The 118 survey respondents were from victim-witness service providers, domestic violence/sexual assault service providers, adult and juvenile  state  probation/parole agencies, and adult and juvenile correctional facilities. Of these, 47% (55) were from agencies that had provided services to trafficking victims during the fiveyear period from 2007–2011, and 53% (63) were from agencies that had not.

Current Status of Service Providers
The survey asked about the status of various resources and tools that are available to assist service providers in their work with human trafficking victims. Some of the findings include:

  • Overall, 53% of all responding agencies do not know whether or not there is a human trafficking services organization (HTSO) in their local service area. Of those agencies that could identify a HTSO in their local service area, nearly all are located in the Washington DC/Baltimore/Northern Virginia area.

  • Just over one-third (35%) of respondents attended formal workshops/classes on human trafficking and 17% received formal training on how to serve victims of human trafficking in the past year.

  • None of the responding agencies have formal procedures/protocols that guide how to serve trafficking victims. Further, only 24% of respondents that work with trafficking victims have a data collection system that tracks services provided to those victims.

  • Only one agency reported a decrease in the number of human trafficking cases, while 42% of respondents said the number of trafficking cases had increased and 55% said the number of trafficking cases had stayed the same.

  • Seventy percent of respondents’ agencies have 6 or fewer full-time staff; 87% have 6 or fewer part-time staff; and 88% have 6 or fewer volunteer staff that work with human trafficking victims at their agency. Nearly two-thirds of respondents use interpreters for service delivery; most of these rely on staff interpreters and half use on-demand language services.

Description of Trafficking Victims and Their Needs
The survey also asked respondents to describe the victims of human trafficking that their agency sees and provide information about the needs of those trafficking victims. Their responses provided the following information:

  • Based on respondents’ descriptions, human trafficking victims are most likely to be adult females between the ages of 20–39.

  • Over half (56%) of respondents described seeing trafficking victims from Latin American countries and 53% reported seeing victims from the U.S.

  • The types of trafficking experienced by victims were most often sex-related (prostitution, sex tourism) or domestic-related (au pair, maid, servile marriage).

  • Over three-quarters of the respondents said that trafficking victims have more severe problems and more complex needs than other victims they serve, and often involve mental health, legal, distrust, and trauma-related issues.

  • Trafficking victims’ most-needed services include: food, emergency housing, sexual assault services,

  • counseling, and case management/coordination of services.

  • Over 80% said their agency/organization is unable to adequately meet the needs of trafficking victims. Further, 42% of agencies estimate trafficking victims require services for about 3 months or more.

  • The need to improve collaboration and outreach is supported by the finding that trafficking victims typically learn about services from referrals and community outreach

Barriers to Service and Needs of Service Providers
Survey respondents were asked to identify various challenges and barriers they’ve encountered in providing services to victims of human trafficking. They were also asked to describe what they think would help them improve their ability to provide services to this population. Their responses provided the following findings:

  • The three most critical barriers/challenges to providing services to trafficking victims are a lack of adequate resources, problems identifying trafficking victims, and a lack of adequate training.

  • Trafficking victims may not seek out services due to fear of the system, fear of retaliation, and lack of knowledge about available services.

  • Eighty percent of respondents feel more training is needed to improve the provision of services to trafficking victims.