On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, we speak to Lynn Sanchez, leading the fight against human trafficking in New Mexico.
Lynn Sanchez, Program Director of Human Trafficking Aftercare, New Mexico Human Trafficking Task Force, Co-chair, The Life Link, sat with Youth Time to discuss and raise awareness on the importance of putting survivors of human trafficking at the centre of the campaigns taking place today, on July 30, as we mark the World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
For more than 13 years, she has worked to develop a comprehensive program to support victims, impact legislation, and ultimately working to create a #WorldWithoutHumanTrafficking.
In this interview, Lynn also comments on this year’s theme “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”, and on the role of the Life Link and the New Mexico Human Trafficking Task Force in raising awareness and fighting trafficking.
On the heels of a case in which 1,000 Chinese immigrants were being labour trafficked in New Mexico, Lynn took the time to discuss the issue.
Read on for the story of the organisation which, among other contributions, has provided mental health care, housing, substance abuse treatment, psychiatry, trauma therapy, case management and much more for over 30 years.
Survivors Paving the Path
Lynn believes it is important to join with survivor/victims of human trafficking and add support to their voice and their choice.
“Survivors have lived experience, unique knowledge, understanding and strengths that will enhance, inform and ensure purposeful programs and responses to survivor/victims of the crime of human trafficking,” says Lynn, who is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counsellor.
She believes survivors can guide service programming and contribute to a truly trauma informed and rights-based approach to services from outreach and advocacy to aftercare.
“Service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors and community members can deepen their understanding of the crime of trafficking and its impact on individuals by including and seeking out survivor voices.”
The Life Link provided services to three victims/survivors over 10 years ago that have since become trained as licensed CPSW’s (certified peer support workers) who contribute to its aftercare program development and growth, safe house safety and capacity building, and lead the New Mexico state-wide hotline outreach and crisis response line 505-GET-FREE (505-438-3733) which was started as a text/call line in 2013 and passed into state law.
Survivors are Never Alone
The needs survivors present with are the focus of the Life Link’s efforts.
Illustrating the importance of their work, she shares the story of one survivor who was locked in a hotel room all day while being forced to work day after day.
“The only thing she had access to alone was the bible that is in most hotel/motel rooms around the country. This inspired our project with the state Attorney General’s Office to create a 505-GET-FREE insert, a brief message that “you are not alone and there is help”, to be placed in rooms around the state.”
This is just one example of the innovative ideas and ways survivors help lead the work they do, Lynn elaborates.
“Survivors also increase our effectiveness in reaching victims.”
“The crime that happened is one piece of the survivors’ journey and life story. We do not request anyone to tell their story.
“Our goal is to join with survivors to envision a safe and healthy future; how to dream about it, and how to realise it.”
Marking the Day and Raising Awareness
The Life Link and NMHTTF (State of New Mexico Human Trafficking Task Force) has held several public World Day events.
Two of the events, 2016 and 2017, respectively, were outside the Mayor’s office in Albuquerque.
“He donated the plaza for the day, and over 200 providers and law enforcement attended, along with many people from the community, to stand in solidarity with victims/survivors.”
The NMHTTF comprises several service providers and law enforcement, various state and federal agencies collaborating to combat human trafficking.
The Life Link has done public awareness campaigns utilising bus stops, trains, PSAs and other signage to raise awareness on human trafficking.
“Most members of the task force do community training and education around identification and reporting HT,” Sanchez says.
They all work together to provide services, safety and a collaborative response to the crime in our state.
“We are always learning and many of us have worked together across different departments for over a decade.”
For World Day against Trafficking in Persons this year, they made World Day t-shirts and several agencies and law enforcement supported the cause by sending their logos in.
“On World Day, 250 people will wear the shirts. We are also doing tiny pop ups where we set up a folding table, have the World Day banner, talk to people about the day and the issue, and provide information on resources and reporting.”
You can help too, by donating to The Life Link by clicking here.
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