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Building trust between a victim of human trafficking and the person helping them is a slow process

I was asked to come and assist a young woman in an interrogation where she was the suspect of a crime. At the beginning of the interrogation process, the woman appeared frightened and reserved. She clearly did not understand the predicament she was in. However, after hearing her testimony, it soon became apparent that her status should be that of a plaintiff instead of a suspect. There was reason to suspect that the woman was a victim of human trafficking. She was admitted to a shelter and provided with the services of the national Assistance System for victims of human trafficking.

At first, the woman was very suspicious of both me and the investigator, and this was evident in how reluctant she was to participate in the interrogations and how vaguely she answered any questions. Several interrogation sessions were arranged, and they were kept brief. Between the interrogations, I visited the woman at the shelter where she was staying, and I also talked with her on the phone. I was happy to notice that, as the interrogations progressed, the woman was able to confide more with the people around her who were willing to help her. During every subsequent interrogation, the woman was able to talk more and more about the things that had happened to her, the details of which could be very sensitive at times. Later, during the district court’s main hearing, the woman was able participate from behind a protective curtain and bravely recount her experiences in detail.

This case is a prime example of how we can identify a victim of human trafficking, provide them with the appropriate support services, and thus become more likely of getting to the bottom of the suspected offence. Building trust between the victim and their helper, the police and other parties can take time, and enough time should be allocated for this purpose. The success of the criminal procedure is of great importance for the victim’s recovery process.

The district court sentenced the person who exploited the woman for human trafficking. The court of appeal did not amend the sentence.