Huddersfield-based sexual exploitation awareness initiative Invisible Traffick GB has launched a “trauma training” programme for local statutory services.
Established in 2014 by former nurse Alison Ellis – as an extension of the Northern Ireland charity Invisible Traffick – the organisation became a Community Interest Company three years ago, working to highlight the scale of sex trafficking and provide support to its victims.
Having formerly run a safehouse for women and girls who have endured sexual exploitation through human trafficking, ITGB identified a distinct lack of awareness surrounding the issue within government services. The company therefore altered its direction and has begun delivering training sessions to local groups.
Aimed primarily at statutory agencies – including police divisions, health services, education specialists, safeguarding teams, local councils, prison staff and community outreach groups – the programme is designed to increase understanding of sex trafficking and how to support its victims. By educating individuals who are likely to come into contact with survivors, the company is seeking to improve the care available and reduce stigma surrounding those affected.
Although often deemed a distant issue, domestic sex trafficking within the UK is prevalent. According to statistics from the National Referral Mechanism for the last quarter of 2017, of the 400 cases reported in England of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, 106 of these related to individuals from the UK.
ITGB is therefore aiming to improve widespread understanding and empathy surrounding the issue of internal trafficking, as well as across international borders.
Alison said: “Having first-hand experience of working with sex trafficking victims through the safehouse, we have more understanding than most of just how rife this problem is in our local area. But it’s precisely these misconceptions surrounding issues of prostitution and exploitation that we’re seeking to address with our advocacy and training.
“It was a difficult decision to switch our attention solely to focus on the trauma programme, but we identified a huge gap within the referral process for victims that we simply had to address. When the very people on the front-line of support aren’t aware of what these survivors have been through – and therefore can’t empathise with how they need to be treated – something needs to be done.”
As part of this awareness-raising objective, the organisation enlisted the support of Huddersfield strategic brand consultancy The Engine Room last year, to overhaul its identity and simplify its key messages. Intentionally conceptualised to attract attention and alter perceptions surrounding victims of sex trafficking, the new brand clearly distils ITGB’s core mission – to expose hidden truths.
Alison continued: “Our fundamental aim is to ‘remove the invisible handcuffs’ from victims, which we needed our brand to capture. And The Engine Room has done a stellar job of creating a hard-hitting, confrontational image. Sex trafficking is undoubtedly an uncomfortable issue, which is easier to ignore than acknowledge – especially when it’s on our doorstep. But we’re hoping that through our new bold, interrogative branding, our audience will sit up and take notice.”
With training sessions having already been held with the local police force and university students, the organisation is looking to strengthen relationships with safeguarding teams and healthcare providers in the area.