According to Polaris, about 14,600 survivors of sex trafficking contacted the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2019. That number is likely higher in 2021. (Adobe Stock)
By Michayla Savitt, Public News Service – CT – Producer, Contact
April 15, 2021
HARTFORD, Conn. – A Connecticut group that aids victims of human trafficking is speaking out about the role that sexual violence plays in this crime. It’s hoping to bring more attention to the deadly connection during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
According to the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, sexual assault can occur in any form of trafficking. Leonela Cruz, director of CIRI’s Project Rescue, works with labor and sex-trafficking survivors and highlighted the similar dynamics of trafficking and sexual assault.
“It’s that ongoing power, that control, that abuse that they maintain over that human being, the exploitation of the human being,” she said, “and it’s really important to remember that; it could be verbal, it could be physical.”
Immigrants, people in the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities are among the groups most often targeted by traffickers, according to Freedom Networks USA.
Cruz cited Connecticut projects such as a rapid rehousing program as one of several ways CIRI and other local organizations are working to help survivors. She said getting housing for survivors is a vital step to getting them to a better place overall.
“If we can fix that housing situation, make sure that they are on that path to become self sufficient – be able to pay the rent – then we can begin building on the other things, in hopes that they are able to do this on their own once their service period is over,” she said.
Cruz emphasized that conversations about human trafficking and sexual assault need to continue past this month. The National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached anytime at 1-800-656-4673. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.
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