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Many humans are trafficked across international borders for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation. The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) developed the “Services for Trafficking Victims Discretionary Grant Program - Comprehensive Services Sites.” The program provides direct services, such as legal and crisis counseling to assist victims once they are identified until they are “certified” to receive other federal benefits. Urban Institute researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with survivors and with key service providers in three evaluation sites. The in-depth interviews document victims’ service needs, their experiences using OVC-funded services, and barriers to services. They also provide a unique opportunity to listen directly to the voices of the victims.
Humans are trafficked across international borders for the purposes of labor exploitation (e.g., domestic servitude, sweatshops) or sexual exploitation (e.g., forced prostitution) and the victims are subjected to coercion, fraud, abuse, or some other form of deception on the part of the traffickers. The Department of State (2004, 2006) estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people— adults and children—are trafficked across international borders around the world annually.1 About 90 percent of these victims are females and over half of all those trafficked each year are believed to be trafficked for sexual exploitation. Among those trafficked, about 14,500 to 17,500 are trafficked into the United States each year. Recent data show that victims are often trafficked by perpetrators of the same nationality (Free the Slaves and Human Rights Center 2004).
On October 28, 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) became law in the United States (Public Law 106-386). TVPA marked a turning point in the nation’s approach to identifying trafficking cases, assisting victims, and prosecuting traffickers, and created an international collaborative effort to address this issue. The Act allows victims who participate in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers to apply for T nonimmigrant status (T-Visa) and permanent residency, as well as receive other benefits and services through new grant programs. It also defined new crimes related to trafficking and enhanced penalties for existing criminal statutes. Finally, TVPA provides funding assistance to foreign countries to bolster their efforts to combat trafficking. TVPA was reauthorized in 2003 and in 2005, including additional elements to bolster provisions in the first Act (Department of Justice 2004).
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) within the U.S. Department of Justice is responsible for developing and administering the “Services for Trafficking Victims Discretionary Grant Program—Comprehensive Services Sites.” The program provides direct services, such as shelter, medical care, crisis counseling, legal assistance, and advocacy to assist victims between the time they are encountered by law enforcement until they are “certified” to receive other benefits from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Certification is a “status” of eligibility given by ORR to adult victims of severe forms of trafficking so that they can receive public social service benefits. Victims apply for certification and, in order to receive it, they must cooperate with the investigation to prosecute the trafficker. Once certified by ORR, victims can legally receive social service benefits, often through grant programs provided by ORR, OVC, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and others. Victims who are not certified or who are awaiting certification are not entitled to certain public benefits; thus, these victims are described to be in a “precertification” phase.
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