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No more a victim of human trafficking, but a self-sufficient actor

Pro-tukipiste has been able to witness the development of anti-human trafficking activities in Finland at both the individual and structural level since the beginning of the 2000s. Disseminating the knowledge that we have accumulated through our practical client work to the structures and networks that play a key role in ensuring the rights of human trafficking victims is at the core of our efforts to combat human trafficking. We have been granted a front-row seat in examining the status of human trafficking victims and the developments that have been made in Finnish society, and we can now safely call them success stories as well.

The people whose stories have included features of human trafficking have often come to our Pro assistance point through the recommendation of other people who sell sex. By working with different communities, we have been able to come to different environments and provide information on the rights and duties of individuals as well as the opportunities for seeking help to those who would otherwise remain beyond our reach. The communal level is also home to experiential information on how the criminal and residence permit procedures work and what types of consequences might come to the person and their loved ones if they report a crime.

The people we have met over the years have been allowed to make informed choices on how they wish to proceed in situations that could be classified as human trafficking. Over the years, we have been able to see the destructive effects that violence and sexual exploitation can have on an individual’s life and well-being. Our clients have sought our help so that they could receive understandable information and assistance as victims, foreign residents in Finland, or individuals who do not feel like they are entitled to the protection offered by our society or to participate in said society. We have supported our clients throughout their feelings of shame, questions related to gender and sexual identity, experiences of discrimination, and the uncertainty and fear that have affected their entire lives and existence. We have been able to help our clients get back in touch with the basic necessities of life and gain the rights that they are entitled to in our society.

Some of our clients have entered the national Assistance system for victims of human trafficking and applied for the residence permit for human trafficking victims. Some of them have received the help they need through municipal services. For several of our clients, gaining access to the services that they need has required intensive support from our organisation. Our organisation-oriented work has helped us build bridges between the people we have met and the Finnish service system. We have accompanied our clients to the services that previously were unfamiliar to them, listened to their experiences and heard their needs, and created mutual understanding of the types of opportunities that Finnish society can offer to them to help them move forward in life. We have educated our clients on the values of our society, the services that are available to them, and the activities of the authorities and organisations that they need. At the same time, we have helped interpret the needs and life situations of our clients to our partners, to allow our clients to participate and be heard in the matters that pertain to them. Our experiences have helped us learn how to talk about the rights and opportunities of human trafficking victims in a concrete and understandable manner.

The need for help of human trafficking victims can continue and vary for decades. Each story of survival is different. We have had the privilege to witness what it means to realise the rights of human trafficking victims at the individual level. At best, we have been able to see people achieve a sustainable level of self-worth and the feeling that they have been allowed to decide what they want from their lives. The individual-level success story that we want to achieve in our organisational work is to empower people to become self-sufficient actors whose lives and identities are no longer defined by their former identities of when they were victims of human trafficking.