Where the fight against human trafficking will be won or lost

By Andy Sturges of Compassion to the Rescue

Advocates bringing survivors to where their needs can be met is the key to victory.


Help getting them jobs, city services, transportation, a shoulder to lean on, guidance, and/or emergency housing, are needed several times a week or daily.  Sometimes all day.  Without this too many will return to trafficking. 


Imagine if you were penniless, homeless, friendless, with reduced judgement due to trauma, and you have to get around by bus or walking while someone is hunting you down to virtually kidnap you.  You would need help.  Someone to go with you to get what you need.  A caseworker who has the time that a loving parent would spend. 


This requires more salaried hours per person than the movement can fund.  Thus the need can only be met by volunteers. 

But who would find the survivors who are getting no help, train the volunteers and hook them all up?  Compassion to the Rescue is doing this right here in Chicago.  There are unhelped survivors in the shelters and group homes.  We find them.  We hook them up to the volunteers who can help them at a fellowship meal.  Contact us at: compassionttr@ to join up.  If you can't at this time you can fund the transportation, food, etc. to make this happen at:



1) Restoration is the real rescue

2) The advocate gap

3) What is an advocate?

4) Why this is the point where victory or defeat will be decided

5) The established movement’s views

6) Conclusion

1) Restoration is the real rescue.  

We tend to view physically separating victims from the traffickers (rescue) as the magical difference maker where someone in captivity is freed and a world of good is done in a single night.  Also we tend to view restoration as equivalent to working with the homeless.  Ho Hum.  A long term effort that is simply the clean up job to the real work of physically separating victim and trafficker.  

But that is not the case.  Because maybe 80% of the time the physically freed go back to being trafficked.  Why?  Because they are not given the services, resources and love they could use to remain free.  Further, most of those who are still under the control of the traffickers would run away if they knew that they could get help.

So the real difference maker is restoration.  It is more often than not the deciding factor in either the growth or diminishing of the amount of people who are trafficked.

Further, restoration is a force multiplier.  It creates a domino effect that sets in motion several activities that reduce trafficking.  

First, traffickers are rarely jailed without the testimony of the victims.  But unless a victim heals from the trauma she won’t testify.  Living in a homeless shelter or on the street is stressful and retards the natural healing process.  Thus, restoration results in a higher amount of traffickers jailed.  When they are jailed often the other controlled women are freed.  Non-trafficking pimps are deterred from becoming traffickers due to fear of prosecution.  

Second, when loving restoration is applied to the traumatized survivors they can easily be guided and given the opportunity to lead others to freedom.  Survivors are superpowered.  They can do what the rest of us cannot.  They can speak streetwalker-ese.  They can lead a victim through the complicated path to freedom because they did it themselves.  They can say the perfect thing to provoke deep psychological healing because they know how those wounds feel and what heals them. They can convince a victim to jump to freedom with an authority that the rest of us cannot due to their experience.  They can lead them out of drug addiction.  They are experts at breaking the pimp bonds.  When a survivor gets restoration from an anti-trafficking organization that organization can provide her with opportunities to use her amazing skills.\

Third, and most importantly:  Love is number one.  Traumatized survivors need restoration resources to diminish their pain levels and regain their abilities quicker.  Love demands that their needs be placed at the highest of priorities.  The movement exists for them.  So their healing and well being is our priority.

In conclusion: the more resources we dump into and efficiently use for restoration the less people will be enslaved by traffickers.

2) The advocate gap.  

We tend to think of restoration as putting out the resources and the survivors will naturally show up to put them to good use. But reality is more complex.  To get to those resources they need an advocate/mentor/caseworker to help them find them. Safe houses are hidden.  City services are difficult to find and navigate.  Job applications are now mostly online and the survivor may not know how to do it online.  Mental, physical challenges and addictions are common and may hinder the search.  Not to mention searching for resources while trying to avoid being re-acquired by the trafficker with no cash for transport.

They can use a hand.  Without it more of them end up back in trafficking.  

Here are challenges that an advocate can help with:

-They can’t find the safe houses.  

-They need to be essentially sold on the idea of living in a safe house.  

-The correct safe house that fits their needs needs to be found.  

-If they instead need a drug rehab or psych ward someone needs to help them make that decision, find the right one, help them apply to get in, and transport them there.  

-If they can’t or won’t go into a safe house and are capable of working to support themselves then they need: Employment counseling, resume building, restoration of lost I.D., help doing online applications, finding the best long term career, finding the best immediate job available, going to job fairs, temporary labor places, help getting over hopelessness about getting a job, transportation costs to be paid until the first paycheck arrives, child care, finding employment for those with disabilities, expungement of felonies, someone to find the jobs available for those with felonies or drugs still in their system, tutoring on how to do a job interview, help acquiring appropriate attire for a job interview, etc.

-Legal aid including T or U Visas, restraining orders, expungment, etc.

-Getting them to medical and psychological treatment

-Getting their psychologist arrested when he tries to date the patient (it happened)

-Gently advocating that they testify but without putting on pressure that will provoke retraumatization or vanishing from care.

-Getting them to religious services that would excellerate the healing process

-Getting them to emergency housing until safe house beds are found.

-Dumping large amounts of caring, loving, respectful, compassion upon them.

-Finding and getting them to support groups

-buying over the counter meds for them

-occasionally feeding them by taking them out to eat

-Befriending them

-Giving comfort when needed and not advice.  Giving advice when needed and not just comfort.

-Hugs when needed.  No hugs when that would be traumatic.


-Finding N.A. or A.A. meetings

-Getting them a library card which gives them access to the internet

-Getting them lists of affordable housing

-Getting them link or disability payments, then getting them a free gov’t cell phone

-Gently advising them on dangerous activities (like sleeping in the park by themselves)

-Getting them free clothes

-Getting them food from a food pantry

-Cherishing and loving them

-Mentoring like with once a week at least going out to eat and having deep talks allowing them to vent, ask for advice, be encouraged, and inspire the rest of us to give of ourselves.

-Looking up online and selling them on: Homeopathic remedies to injury or illness

-Getting them to healers

-Guiding them away from bad influence friends gently

-getting them to or to another homeless shelter

-hooking them up with other homeless, survivors, or volunteers who can get needs met

-Caring for them when they get too sick to take care of themselves

-Calling in anti-trafficking orgs to help

-Doing police reports, hunting down leads of their friends and preparing for rapid response for when they resurface after disappearing whether it is returning to the traffickers or other reasons (we got three of those as of this writing right now).  


They need advocates and without them they don’t get to restoration resources and thus are very likely to return to being trafficked.  

How to finance it:

This huge need is not hard to fill.  No office is needed.  No degree.  No extensive experience.  No need to create a charitable organization.  No grant writing.  No massive fundraising efforts.

You meet up with them weekly for months and do what any parent or loving sibling would do:  Hook them up to the services that they need.  Pay for their meal, give them transportation money, drive them to where they need to go at times.  For just a few bucks you finance your own restoration services yourself.  Do it with partners for wisdom, protection, to split the expenses and multiply the good accomplished.

How to teach yourself how to do this:

Train by helping the homeless.  Get conversations going with them.  Find out what they need.  Hunt down those resources and hook them up to them.  Many homeless can be restored by your attempts to educate yourself to free people from human trafficking.

How to get started:

If you are in Chicago you can join us.  The Compassion Response Team of Compassion to the Rescue needs more advocates.  A young woman who was way down the list of those we were hoping to help committed suicide this summer due to lack of advocacy/love.  With more workers more can be reached.  If not in Chicago I can advise you by video chat for a fee.  Contact: compassionttr@

3) What is an advocate?

The exact need is for someone to meet up with them regularly.  To take “ownership” of the case while exerting as little (preferrably no) control over the person themselves.  Survivors often need more intensive help per person than a homeless person.  Regular meetings allow the channeling of resources to them.  The advocate can take on one or many of these following roles:

  1. Caseworker.  Hooking them up to existing services.  This involves determining what the real needs are, finding the specific services, convincing them to go, getting them there, calling or meeting with the service provider to smooth out acceptance, and/or taking them there yourself to make sure it happens.  This supplying them with needed services is what you offer to them initially to get them to build the relationship that will allow you to give to them as much as possible.  To ensure one got the job I went and did the factory work with her one time.  

  2. Mentor.  Emotional support.  Non-pressure guidence.  Friendship.  Someone to provide a shoulder to cry on.  Someone who gives to them without requiring something in return.  Providing good character friendship so they don’t end up with bad character friends who degrade their recovery.  Someone who they go to for confidential advice but knows not to give advice when just support is needed.  This also involves counselling as a friend would. The term to use initially is encourager.  I had buttons made that said: ENCOURAGEMENT VOLUNTEER for when I initially appoached people.

  3. Emergency response team.  I have three right now who are lost and we are searching for them frantically.  Either due to being retrafficked or disorientated due to an outbreak of a mental challenge, a substance abuse binge and the shame involved or outright kidnapping (last week for instance) -they have just disappeared.  This involves: police reports, contacting common friends looking for leads, gathering their abandoned things for safekeeping, dropping everything and going out to whereever they show up to keep them from continuing being “missing”.  Light rescue type activity may be involved like when we arranged for her to be separated from the trafficker, asked her if she wanted to get away and then she voluntarially ran out the door with us to a waiting car.  Bike rides around their possible locations in the hope of running into them have worked also.  Get advice to minimize risk.    

  4. Emergency housing team.  A couch, spare bedroom, a car to sleep in for a night or more can be of great help in keeping them from being re-trafficked or simply raped when they decide to just sleep in the park.  But there are multiple dangers including dealing with angry pimps so you must avoid personal danger.  Contact me for more information.

4) Why this is the point where victory or defeat will be decided

  1. There is not enough money allocated to this movement to salary all the workers needed.  So trained, love-motivated volunteers will have to fill the gap.

  2. Awareness, education, advocating for laws, etc. is only effective if it impacts the interaction between survivors and people helping the survivors.  So why not just focus on impacting the survivors directly.  Direct services to survivors and/or victims is where this battle will be won or lost.

  3. A volunteer cannot see if he is actually doing any good unless he is doing direct services.  For instance awareness (which I still encourage!) which could be described as spreading information out to the public gives the awareness worker no feedback as to if any good came from it.  With no assurance that their labor has actually helped they help less and less.  Whereas if you take a penniless, homeless, visibly traumatized survivor and help her get to full recovery you know you have made a real difference.  You can see it.  When people can see it they will do the work more.  This is necessary since after all they are doing it without pay.  We won’t get the necessary volunteer hours to win this war without the volunteers being able to see with their own eyes that their efforts are changing lives.

  4. I am running into large numbers of survivors who are completely unaware of the anti-trafficking movement and all the benefits they can get from it.  They need someone to bridge that gap for them.  All the awareness work is not reaching down to most survivors.  In essence it is trying to teach 300 million Americans how to help a few tens of thousands of survivors.  The inefficiancy is that 99% won't ever get to use that teaching.  Keep teaching.  But when you go out and get a survivor a job and that keeps her from being retrafficked you hit 100% effectiveness for your efforts.

  5. Advocacy multiplies restoration.  And restoration unleashes the positives mentioned before: prosecution of traffickers, recovered survivors reaching out to victims powerfully and mentoring at risk survivors, allowing the public to be involved binds them to the movement.  The volunteer's labor is also an emotional investment that helps them to also do more awareness, donating, organizing, etc.

5) The movement’s various views:

The hotlines:

Neither the National nor local hotlines provide enough of these services.  Even a good hotline can’t be a mentor.  Our movement’s hotlines do much good.  But for instance they don’t even know (as of this writing) about the two Chicago safe houses for adults. They don’t give out lists of safe houses so you can call them all to find a rare bed for a homeless survivor who is desperate and sitting right beside you with no place to sleep for the night.  They are bound by many rules that prevent actual help being given out.  Rules that prevent bad but also prevent most of the good that they could give out.  Our local hotline won’t even speak to you unless you tell them that you are a survivor of human trafficking and most at risk survivors don’t identify as such and thus will get zero help from that hotline.  The movement teaches the world that restoration is taken care of when you dial the hotline.  But I have rarely been able to squeeze any good out of them and I have much experience trying to do so.  A raw survivor or a citizen with limited knowledge calling will get even less from them.  I love and respect those hotlines but they are no replacement for an advocate.

Our local Task Force

After 4 years of me attending their yearly conferences they have never mentioned the advocate gap.  One reason is that they don’t believe in volunteers doing much direct services.  So they discourage it as much as possible.  Then they aren't funded enough to provide those services either.  So most survivors simply go unhelped.  The thought process is "A volunteer could make mistakes and make the situation worse".  Yes, but not as worse as leaving survivors in the homeless shelters to be re-aquired by traffickers and them spending all year being beaten and raped.  If you keep the good people away from the survivors they will naturally end up being with bad influence people.  They will be befriending somebody.  They view a relative situation as if it was absolute.  Sometimes "First do no harm" gets trumped by "choose the higher form of love".  Death stalks this population.  Some risk taking is justified.

Currently, they are following a policy of refusing to network with most of the rest of the local movement.  Why this is remains a mystery since dialog with the local movement is restricted also.  I love and respect them.  If they read this I hope they will contact me so I can help integrate them with the rest of the movement.  The door will always be open to them. 

The usual concern

How can this be done by non-professionals when anti-trafficking is dangerous and tricky?

Because we are not running a safe house nor a rescue team.  We are taking someone out to dinner and asking them how it is going.  A degree is not necessary to dispense loving compassion.  We are not taking full responsibility for the person.  We are simply empowering them here and there.  Any responsible family member would and could do the same in many situations. We avoid the traffickers.  We just help people.  If the trafficker shows up all they see is the survivor talking to a counselor or a friend.  A safe house has to make hard choices that the survivor may not like and thus may suffer being publicly criticized.  We just give and do so only following the lead of the survivor. So they only get positives from us so there is nothing to complain about. If they don’t want what we offer fine.  If they choose to do risky behavior we don’t fight them about it endangering the relationship.  We give resources.  We get them jobs so they can resource themselves.  If they don't accept our offer of help, no problem we leave the door open for them to get that help later.  We have never gotten anything but love back from our clients.

Further, the grant funded professionals are required to help the hardest cases.  So they make the assumption that we will be also.  But we are not required to do so since we didn’t get a federal grant requiring that.  So we help the cases that we are capable of handling.  The light and medium cases.  Any case over our heads we bring to the experts.  That is what caseworkers do anyway.  Help those you can and bring those you can’t to those who can help them.  

What do survivor leaders say about this:

-Rachel Loyd a high authority on this subject nationally: If you want to impact human trafficking get ready to do mentoring.  That is the most effective thing to do. (not an exact quote).

-Survivors on facebook keep beating the “what we really need is help getting a job” drum.

-A local anti-trafficking official with law enforcement: There are groups of survivors around the city who need jobs, food and clothes and someone to get it to them.  “Do they need support groups?” I asked.  “No, jobs, food and clothes” was the answer.

-A front line anti-trafficking sheriff: “Oh, you can come help them get jobs?  That would be great.  We don’t have time to do that. -A top Illinois anti-trafficking official: This war can only be won by people who don't need a paycheck. 

6) Conclusion:  There will never be enough paid workers to give the survivors what they need for their restoration.  The gap can only be filled by volunteers.  Luckily, befriending someone and getting them the help they need can be done by many. Compassion obsession will be necessary since there is no pay.  We can win this war.  But we will have to apply maximum resources at the most effective point: Taking those we love so much to get the help they most need. 


I am available for personal video chat training and help when you reach a roadblock.  Since I have successfully practiced: "Give everything you have to the poor" please donate $20 an hour to free me up to help more here.  You can do so at:  Otherwise I will soon be joining the survivors at day labor factory work instead of helping anti-traffickers help survivors.

Andy Sturges