Is the anti-slavery movement ready to listen to survivors?

As the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG) publishes research and a podcast series on the importance of including survivors in research and building policy responses, one of the peer researchers reflects on if the anti-slavery movement is ready to hear the voices of survivors.

Please note that this story contains a reference to suicide.

Shadow of a women
Credit: Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

Being part of this peer research project for more than a year has been a learning process for me, getting to understand research processes and the work that goes into organising from start to finish.

After exiting modern slavery, I went through the system known as the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). I also claimed asylum here in the UK; it was an eye opener and I felt cheated, I felt scammed by the system, the government, and organisations.

Before embarking and deciding to enter the NRM, I researched, asked questions, and read information from the government and a few organisations’ websites. I was confident and a bit relaxed because I thought I had some understanding of what the process was going to look like and how long I would spend going through it. When I started the process of going into the NRM and claiming asylum little did I know what awaited me at the other end.

It was a scam! Not what I read in the government website about a 45-day reflection period and that I would receive a response within 6 months on my asylum case. In reality, it was completely different. I felt like I was hit by a truck. Before starting the process, I would take paracetamol to manage what I had suffered as a result of trafficking. By the middle of the process, I was on the highest dose of anti-depressants, going in and out of the hospital as a result of attempting to take my own life.

Research is very important, and it is more important that the inclusion of survivors occurs from the start to the finish of any research that has to do with or that tries to reflect the day to day life of a survivor of slavery.

If the anti-slavery movement is ready for a change then the voices of survivors needs to be in the heart of all this, not picking and choosing survivors who are more fluent in English because for the majority of survivors, English is not their first language so if we miss them out, we are missing a huge percentage of survivors.

I really hope this project helps to shape the way research is being approached and that more survivors will enable shifts in laws and policy to better support survivors.

Recently there have been more survivor voices in the anti-slavery movement through surveys and research, however this has to be approached in the right way otherwise survivors will find themselves being exploited by the same people who are supposed to support and fight exploitation alongside them.

Most researchers have degrees, certificates, masters or even a PhD. How can the anti-slavery movement support survivors so they can be more equipped to become an active member of the movement by conducting their own research rather than a participant in the research field?

I’d like to see more research, such as Agents for Change, on different topics that involve survivors from the start of the project till the end and survivors should be paid as anyone else who is involved in the same project. You might ask how do we pay survivors if they don’t have the right to work? I say go and find out and ask questions, work to find a solution to this barrier.

While Anti-Slavery International is beginning to walk the talk, there is always room for improvement, and I encourage others to ready themselves and their organisations for change.

Read the full report now, and listen to the researchers talk about their work in our new podcast series on YouTube.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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