Promising practices for engagement

In 2018, Covenant House conducted a national study on the barriers to exiting sex trafficking. What we learned is that the support of front-line service providers plays a significant role in an individual’s ability to successfully exit trafficking. This highlights the importance of every encounter between service providers and survivors, and the need to ensure the survivor feels cared for and supported.

While survivors are resilient and strong, they also require compassion, understanding, sensitivity and comfort. Industry standards point to trauma-informed care as the best approach to provide this support. We unpacked this approach in our model of care section, which you can find here.

In the section below, we offer a practical guide on how to apply trauma-informed care.

Although these are promising practices, they are also only recommendations; individual considerations must be taken into account. The most important takeaway is that respect, compassion, patience and non-judgmental care are present in all of your actions as a service provider.


Promising practices for a trauma-informed approach

Create a safe environment

Communicate with care

Practice active listening

Take appropriate action

If the individual you are working with is not ready to engage, here are a few suggestions to continue to assist them:

  • Validate and normalize their feelings. Reassure them they have a choice not to accept your help at this time.
  • Provide information, resources and opportunities to make connections for when/if they’re ready in the future:
    • Many trafficked persons will seek assistance for their situation when they feel safe to do so and when they know there are resources to help them.
    • Communicate options verbally, unless they request information to be written down since traffickers are likely to destroy written instructions if they are found and physically punish the trafficked individual.
  • Exercise reflective practice to examine whether your approach was suited to the needs of the person you're working with. Also, take time to assess your own behaviour and whether it was trauma-informed.

Assessing an individual in relation to the stages of change can guide your engagement with them. Click here to read the Stages of change resource.