ATEST Joins Call on Congress to Protect Trafficking Survivor Confidentiality

May 1, 2023

Dear Members of Congress,

As a group of civil society organizations working directly with human trafficking
survivors, and leading efforts to dismantle the systems that allow human trafficking to flourish
in this country, we write today to share our perspectives on the importance of the U.S. National
Human Trafficking Hotline (the “Hotline”), operated by Polaris.

Recent estimates indicate that 28 million people are trafficked worldwide. Each year, in
this country alone, thousands of victims and others bravely decide to seek help in cases of sex
and labor trafficking via the Hotline. Since 2007, the Hotline, a lifeline for a person experiencing
exploitation in the U.S., has received tips on more than 82,000 human trafficking cases
concerning nearly 165,000 victims.

We commend Congress for the support and resources it has provided to the Hotline for
more than 15 years. The Hotline serves as a centralized mechanism in the U.S. to connect
victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons with service providers. The Hotline provides
several safe communication channels for those seeking help and shares critically important
information about safety and other available resources. Trained Hotline advocates take tips of
suspected sex and labor trafficking and help survivors build plans to leave their situations safely
or get the help they need to rebuild their lives.

The Hotline’s operating procedures are governed by the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services’ Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP). Those procedures, which have
remained consistent for more than a decade, have enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and
across Administrations since the Hotline’s inception in 2007, largely because they employ well established
person-centered, trauma-informed approaches. This approach is widely recognized
as best practice in the anti-trafficking sector and across the broader victim services field. More
specifically, in accordance with the terms of funding provided by HHS, the Hotline “defer[s] to
the [adult] individual seeking assistance on if, and when, to report their case to law
enforcement, unless required to do otherwise by state-mandated child welfare reporting

Adult survivors of human trafficking must be able to make their own decisions about
whether or not to report to law enforcement. Victims calling the hotline are in the best position
to make this judgment call. They know the threats that they are facing, can best assess the
potential danger of law enforcement intervention, and should have the power to determine
when — and if — law enforcement should be alerted to their report. Putting this power back into
the hands of trafficking victims is a core tenet of trauma-informed, person-centered
approaches to the provision of services. Moreover, providing trafficking victims with the ability
to make their own decisions on reporting and escape ultimately supports efforts to bring
traffickers to justice. According to the Department of Justice, survivors who feel safe and
receive available resources to begin the long process of rebuilding their lives are “more capable
and willing to present strong evidence and testimony in the prosecution of perpetrators,
thereby helping to accomplish important justice and restitution goals.” Moreover, our
organizations have seen firsthand that victim-centered approaches serve as a critical form of
healing for many survivors who lost control over their own decision-making while being

We join with survivor advocates in the National Survivor Network who have voiced their opposition
to the requested changes proposed by some state Attorneys General. While the
U.S. continues to appropriate resources and adopt laws to improve our domestic response to
human trafficking, we urge Congress to resist calls to reverse long-standing procedures that
center human trafficking responses on the survivor. Anything short of that would make
survivors less willing to come forward, thereby delaying or destroying their ability to recover
and deterring their participation in important criminal justice proceedings to hold traffickers


Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual
Violence Center
Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking
American Women’s Medical Association – Physicians Against the Trafficking of Humans (AMWA-PATH)
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.
Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking
CommonSpirit Health
Covenant House
Erase Clinic
Free the Slaves
Freedom From Exploitation
Freedom United
Global Fund to End Modern Slavery
HEAL Trafficking
Human Trafficking Search
Humanity United Action
Kids in Need of Defense
McCain Institute at Arizona State University
Mosaic Family Services
My Life My Choice
National Network for Youth
Restore NYC
SWLA Abolitionists
The Avery Center
The Freedom Fund
The Human Trafficking Legal Center

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