In less than two weeks, I fly to London to begin my fellowship with CHASTE, a non-profit organization which actively works for the global eradication of trafficking for sexual exploitation. CHASTE recently opened a new office in Tirana, Albania where most of my summer fellowship will take place. Despite all of the preparation, both through my research at ISIM (Institute for the Study of International Migration) and extensive reading on trafficking and Albania, it’s hard to feel entirely prepared for a new culture and confronting such an enormous, nebulous problem face-to-face.
Reactions to my impending fellowship have ranged from “Albania, that’s like a third world country!” to “Trafficking? Is that about urban congestion?” Albania is a major destination and transit country for trafficking victims, as well as having an internal trafficking problem. The average age of many girls forced into prostitution is 13 or 14 and most experienced sexual abuse prior to their trafficking, according to CHASTE research.
I am not entirely sure of what I will encounter this summer. I know that it will be difficult, perhaps at times grim, work but so critical to developing better systems for rescuing and supporting trafficking survivors. I work at the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM) at Georgetown University on a project that examines the reintegration trajectories and experience of minors that were trafficked into the United States. I have read the most harrowing stories of beatings, life under conditions of slavery, rape, and mental trauma but I have not worked directly with survivors of trafficking and am trying to free myself of preconceived notions of how they will behave or how to act around them.
My first two weeks will be spent learning about CHASTE and their work and then going to Birmingham where I will meet with the Albania team that I will work with this summer. My schedule includes visiting a safe house, learning about how the London (Metropolitan) police identify and refer trafficking victims, as well visiting the Poppy Project, an organization that works to establish safe houses for victims of trafficking.
After that, I travel to Tirana to begin working in CHASTE’s new office. While I am there, I’ll help CHASTE to conduct outreach for and support trafficking survivors in Albania. One of my main goals this summer is to be able to compare the US and European systems for identifying and supporting trafficking survivors so that we can adopt the best practices of both systems and foster international collaboration to combat trafficking for sexual exploitation. I can not begin to imagine the strength and courage of the women and children that survive trafficking for sexual exploitation but I hope that this summer brings me one step closer to understanding how we can enhance systems to identify, rescue, and support trafficking survivors.
Posted By Jennifer Hollinger
Posted May 23rd, 2007