Sex Trafficking Survivors Quest for Identity

There a dozens of hurdles that service providers to victims of sex trafficking face when responding to a new case regardless of age or gender, but one of the most rewarding case management tools we can offer is the restoration of their identity documents.
Domestic Sex Traffickers are notorious for holding their captives with the psychological bonds of fear and intimidation, but they are also practical in their tactical application of control by holding their State ID’s, Drivers Licenses, Social Security Cards and Birth Certificates hostage. Without exception, International Sex traffickers confiscate passports and VISA’s. Most victims of sex slavery receive Federal Benefits like Food Stamps – often fraudulently at the direction of a trafficker – and many are recipients of Social Security or Disability payments. Armed with these Benefit Cards and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) the trafficker is able to access funds without impunity.
As time in captivity continues, the loss of their identity is exacerbated by the assignment of “working names” – to the victims when advertising on sex websites. Their working names are changed often and many victims claim that sometimes they had so many names they couldn’t keep them straight. Whether rescued or escaped – whether it occurs through intervention by law enforcement, a social service organization or an NGO – their identities are as lost to them as their pride, their confidence and their self-respect. After all, without identification they don’t have any means to access food, clothing, housing or any other basic human need. Most sex trafficking victims or prostitutes – of every age, race and gender do not have a GED or a High School Diploma and – even after escaping the life – without identification they can’t register for school, get any kind of job, open a bank account or get an apartment.
In 2012, Out Of The Life, Inc. opened new bank accounts for 20 clients and provided job placement and career counseling for 22 women. We enrolled three survivors of sex trafficking in local vocational schools, and helped thirteen women pass their GED. We provided housing for 13 young women who had nowhere else to go. We have eighteen overcomers who are entering their second, third and fourth years in a life free of the sex industry. We have assisted with re-entry services for more than 60 women who were in jail or prison and have provided too many bus passes to count so that these survivors can have transportation to work and school.
But the most transformational experiences we have had were in the faces of the 130 women that we assisted in accessing one or more of their Identification Documents. One young woman said it best when she opened not only her own birth certificate, but that of her 6 year old daughter.
“It’s like now I really exist!”


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