COVID-19 is impacting human trafficking survivors. Here’s how.
(First posted on the 10ThousandWindows site in support of trafficking survivors critically affected by COVID-19.)
As the global Coronavirus crisis disrupts all of our lives, it is critically affecting the world’s most vulnerable. Here is how COVID-19 is impacting human trafficking survivors.
Three weeks ago, my husband and I had our tent trailer packed and ready to go for an epic camping trip to Nevada and Utah with our three kids aged eight, six and four. We canceled at the last second as the Canada-US border closed to non-essential travel. Instead of hiking in Arches National park and marveling at the Las Vegas Strip, we found ourselves hunkering down at home to protect my mom (who lives with us), who is a cancer survivor and at higher risk for suffering serious complications related to COVID-19.
Like millions of others around North America, our lives and immediate plans have been disrupted. Even now, as friends are laid off from work and as the crisis wears on, canceling a long-dreamed-of vacation is the very least of our worries. My husband and I feel mounting stress as we try our best to work, parent, and school our kids from our house, which suddenly feels far too small for the five of us.
But these are not the things that keep me up at night.
What does disturb my dreams is the devastating impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on the world’s most fragile populations, including the human trafficking victims I serve through my work with 10ThousandWindows.
COVID-19 is critically affecting the world’s most vulnerable. I am receiving daily reports from my frontline colleagues that trafficking survivors who fought so hard to integrate into their communities, to upgrade their schooling, and to get good jobs are now being laid off. When they call us, they tell us how hungry their children are and that they don’t have money for food.
This is unlike anything I’ve seen before in my 10 years working in the counter-trafficking movement. Modern slavery, an egregious evil all on its own, is now enveloped within a global crisis that is spreading throughout the entire world, disrupting everything we’ve known and held dear.
It threatens to damage and undo so much of the work that has been done to restore and reintegrate victims of trafficking into their communities.
Right now, the trafficking victims we have fought so hard to free, to restore, and to integrate into their communities, are at risk again. Women who have worked hard to get good jobs and to provide for their families with dignity, are now wondering how they’ll make money to feed their kids. We’re seeing spikes in debilitating anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and returning trauma symptoms.
What we’re seeing is likely just the beginning. The impact on trafficking survivors around the world will exponentially increase over the coming months as the entire world reels from this crisis.
Even as I write this from my house in Canada, I’m aware that this can feel like an issue that’s far away, that doesn’t impact us here. But, if there’s anything COVID-19 has shown me, it’s how deeply connected we are, whether we want to admit it or not. We are a migrating, traveling world. Our economies, our collective health, and even our futures are intricately enmeshed.
As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our lives, how do I want to remember my own response? I want to know that I honored the most vulnerable and fragile communities in the world – health workers, the elderly, the immune-compromised and victims of modern slavery.
On April 8, 2020, 10ThousandWindows is hosting an online virtual event to raise critical funds for trafficking survivors impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. I hope you’ll join me at the event as we Show Up for Trafficking Survivors. If you can’t, I hope you’ll consider donating to our COVID-19 Crisis Response.