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Unresolved Challenges - Division Among Leaders

We know that progress would not continue without the commitment from so many leaders fighting against sex and labor trafficking. This commitment has brought many challenges and sacrifices that most certainly affect their ability to help provide significant breakthrough in our local, state, and national fight against human trafficking.

There are thousands of individuals who have answered the call to become advocates against human trafficking. They come from different backgrounds. Different professions. Different races. Different religious beliefs. Different social standings. Different educational backgrounds. For some, this journey has been a passion to pursue because of their own abusive background. For others, it is a calling to help make a difference after recognizing so many innocent men, women and children are still enslaved. But one thing is consistent among them: advocates share a common goal to do everything within their power to help end this modern day form of slavery called sex and labor trafficking and domestic servitude.

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There are thousands of individuals who have answered the call to become advocates against human trafficking. They come from different backgrounds. Different professions. Different races. Different religious beliefs. Different social standings. Different educational backgrounds. For some, this journey has been a passion to pursue because of their own abusive background. For others, it is a calling to help make a difference after recognizing so many innocent men, women and children are still enslaved. But one thing is consistent among them: advocates share a common goal to do everything within their power to help end this modern day form of slavery called sex and labor trafficking and domestic servitude.

Some advocates have answered the call to start or join existing anti-trafficking organizations and step into roles of leadership to further the cause. Whether serving as Presidents, Executive Directors or CEO’s, these leaders have embraced new leadership roles to help pave the way for increased awareness, training, collaboration and direct victim services. Most never received formal training on how to educate others about trafficking or how to engage communities to a formerly unknown issue, let alone how to walk alongside rescued trafficking survivors in their restorative healing journey.

So, in the midst of addressing some challenging issues within the anti-trafficking movement, we wanted to ask survivors, concerned citizens and other advocates what they thought about these passionate anti-trafficking leaders who are committed to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves. Here are a few words they provided to best describe the admiration for those who have stood undeniably strong in this fight:

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There is no denying the strength that anti-trafficking leaders provide to all those affected by this crime. Truly, without committed leaders and collaborative teamwork, local, state and federal anti-trafficking efforts would not be where they are today. 

With that commitment, there are also many challenges that our leaders face. Personal challenges and sacrifices are rarely discussed publicly because the focus remains on those that have not yet been rescued and those already in their healing journey. But we feel in order to change where we are going, we must also recognize where we have been. United Against Slavery wants to provide a place where no issue is left undiscussed if it will help advance the fight against trafficking.

As many anti-trafficking leaders would probably confirm, there is great division and lack of trust among leadership in this fight. Not just within anti-trafficking organizations but also among some law enforcement and among some trafficking survivors. As we look at 3 of the main challenges facing our local, state and federal anti-trafficking efforts, we see a common thread that affects the division among leaders.

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The needs are great within anti-trafficking organizations and resources are rarely in great supply. Only in the last few years have more anti-trafficking leaders began to start receiving even minimal salaries after volunteering hundreds or even thousands of hours. Some leaders still serve willingly with no salaries and with limited funds to operate their organization. For those providing direct victim services with limited funding, the challenges are escalated even more because lives are dependent upon those resources.

As previously discussed, there is growing frustration among survivor-led and non-survivor-led leadership as they witness a surplus of funds become available for awareness and training when there are not enough beds to house rescued sex and labor trafficking and domestic servitude survivors. Even as billions are spent on anti-trafficking efforts world-wide, that amount seems to be disproportionate to a much smaller amount needed to open and operate enough safe houses for those rescued in each state. With federal grants becoming more and more competitive, some organizations even misquote statistics in order to increase public perception of the problem so they can receive more donations.

In addition to funding concerns, there is increasingly a mistrust among leaders as intentional and unintentional decisions are made that impact other leaders in a negative way. Too many assumptions are made instead of leaders simply asking for direct clarification on situations. In addition, because we live in a society where offense is taken easily and spread on social media even more easily, it doesn’t take long before unkind and sometimes hate-filled comments are made. It is unfortunate that unkindness spreads quicker than someone stopping to speak truth to a situation even if it means asking a leader for clarity. There are few leaders and organizations, if any, that have not had negative words spoken against them. 

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As we see division all across our nation on unrelated anti-trafficking issues, taking offense and speaking against another person has become the norm. Sometimes leaders forget where they came from and may not have grace for the journey other leaders lived through to get where they are. Sometimes we just forget to allow each other to be imperfect and hold each other to a level of perfection that we don't hold ourselves to. 

Our desire with United Against Slavery is to openly discuss the issues affecting our leaders and survivors and collaboratively create solutions to these 4 challenges so that we can all see the day when human trafficking will cease to exist. We believe addressing outdated statistics, lack of funding and a lack of best practices and standards will help create more unity among anti-trafficking leaders, survivors, law enforcement and government agencies. But it also requires leaders to look in the mirror to see if we are doing everything we can to encourage healthy relationships amidst those in this fight. It takes a lot more effort to embrace unity and diversity than it does to create division so we must be willing to take responsibility for our own actions and remember who we are fighting for.