Washington, DC
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Survivor-run groups that combat human trafficking need more support from the US Government so they can operate on a level playing field with larger agencies, an advisory council said last week.

Organisations run by survivors make unique, "invaluable" contributions fighting modern slavery need more resources and backing, the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking said in its annual report.

"We could not meaningfully do this work without survivors," said John Cotton Richmond, anti-trafficking ambassador at the US State Department.

Survivors bring empathy and practical knowledge from their experiences to help other victims of trafficking deal with trauma, advisory council members said at a panel discussion held to coincide with release of the report.

Survivors can especially help those at risk of being overlooked, such as men and boys, LGBT+ victims and elderly people, said Tina Frundt, chairwoman of the council and executive director of Courtney's House, a Washington-based anti-trafficking group.

"When we see the data we collect, I can see when we left survivors out of it," she said.

An estimated 400,000 people are believed to be trapped in modern slavery in the United States, according to the Global Slavery Index, published by the human rights group Walk Free Foundation.

They include people who are doing forced labour, being sex trafficked or in forced marriages.

The US advisory council, established by a 2015 law, is made up entirely of survivors, giving them a voice on trafficking issues.

It called for ensuring survivor-run groups are aware of ways to apply for funding, receive technical assistance with grant requests and partner with similar groups.

It also recommended creating grants to fund research and services tailored to victims of forced labor, who often receive less support than victims of sex trafficking.

Worldwide, labor trafficking affects more people, an estimated 20 million, versus five million people in sex slavery, according to the International Labour Organization.

Members of the council also suggested giving survivors more opportunities in the federal government to share their knowledge.

"Their embedded presence will inform daily agency decisions," said council member Sheila White.