Supporting survivors of human trafficking through community-based programs

Labor trafficking is a hidden crime. Every day, across the country, people are forced to work in homes as domestic servants, farmworkers are coerced through violence to harvest crops and factory workers are held in inhumane conditions with little to no pay. These are just a few examples of industries where traffickers use violence, threats and lies to force people to work against their will. Labor trafficking, a type of human trafficking, is a form of exploitation in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion. According to The Human Trafficking Institute, it is estimated that traffickers are exploiting 24.9 million victims worldwide, effecting people of all races, ages, ethnicities and genders.

Labor trafficking impacts people right here in King County and Washington state. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Washington ranked 13th among states for the highest number of contacts to the hotline – either phone call, email, or website form – from people who are victims of sex or labor trafficking. The national hotline has received more than 4,400 calls from people in Washington since 2007, including 616 contacts to the hotline in 2018.

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According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline 229 human trafficking cases were reported and 616 contacts were made to the hotline in Washington in 2018.

In recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which occurs every January, we are excited to introduce you to a partner of our Adult Services Division, API Chaya. API Chaya is a longtime partner of King County, most recently through the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy (VSHSL), but has been at the forefront of efforts to combat labor and human trafficking of all kinds for decades.

Trusted community members connect survivors to services

We are excited for our partner, API Chaya to empower survivors of all forms of human trafficking to gain safety, connection and wellness. One of their core programs is called Natural Helpers, which supports communities and survivors of all forms of gender-based violence and human trafficking.

The Natural Helpers program provides direct multilingual outreach to the community, by the community, to connect survivors of human trafficking to available resources and services. The program trains bilingual outreach volunteers that are already “natural helpers” in their communities such as community organizers, business owners and faith leaders. When trained and mobilized, trusted community members can provide culturally specific and survivor-centered support to the South Asian, Asian, Pacific Islander and all immigrant communities that API Chaya serves.

In addition to creating a network of mobilized Natural Helpers in communities, the program puts survivors at the forefront of the work to end exploitation by providing opportunities for leadership. Natural Helpers supports survivors of trafficking to build leadership skills to become Natural Helpers themselves, providing support to others in their communities.

For more information on how to participate in the Natural Helpers Program, please contact

How to recognize human trafficking in your community

Signs of human trafficking vary. Every situation is different; the type of trafficking and the environment in which trafficking takes place are all important to consider. Recognizing potential signs of human trafficking can help keep your community safe.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline’s possible signs of labor trafficking:

An individual

  • Is not free to leave or come and go at will
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Is living and working on site
  • Experiences verbal or physical abuse by their supervisor
  • Is not given proper safety equipment
  • Is not paid directly
  • Is forced to meet daily quotas

Survivor support services in King County

Last year, King County and local leaders launched an ongoing campaign to raise public awareness about human trafficking, how and where it occurs locally, how to prevent and stop it, and to promote access to services for survivors of and people experiencing human trafficking. Campaign resources are available to download here.

Visit for a searchable list of services that are available to human trafficking survivors in King County and Washington.

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