A Conversation with Unbound Advocates

Unbound Houston Advocate Xala shared how she is able to help survivors find resources and healing in a society where “most people don’t slow down enough to just walk next to them.”

Xala described her position as an “advocate case manager.” 

“I’m somebody who can walk next to them and help guide them in their daily journey of merging back to society,” she said. 

According to Xala, this can range from having a cup of coffee together to discuss how the survivor is feeling, to driving them to an interview. She said that she focuses on “taking them from point A to point B,” which sometimes means enrolling them in a GED program, assisting them throughout the process of obtaining a driver’s license, and helping them find basic resources like food and shelter.

Photography by Gittings

Photography by Gittings

Xala stated that she operates by taking her job case by case and focusing on meeting each survivor’s specific needs.

“We give them control over whether they want to work with us or not, and offer up any assistance we can provide,” she said. “I listen to what they need in that moment. We help connect them with the steps they need to get a job, give them a better understanding. If they want a job, I help them find those resources and give them options, leaving it up to them if they want to proceed instead of simply telling them what to do. I help them find counseling centers if they want therapy or counseling, I help them find counseling centers by seeking out that area that they live in and the best options for them.” 

Xala described how the “little moments” along each survivor’s journey demonstrate the significant growth taking place within. 

These “tiny victories reveal how survivors heal as they begin “seeing that there’s more and better ways of living out there than just the people they were previously surrounded by. Seeing that they can have good people in their lives and community. Seeing that they have the power to change the outcome. It’s their thought process changing. It’s them growing stronger and seeing themselves in a different light, connecting the dots of how things can be different for them.”

With a similar take on how Unbound provides critical assistance as well as healing support to survivors, Unbound Fort Worth Advocate Nicole defined her role as “the bridge connecting survivors to resources in the community.”

“We get referrals from many different places, primarily law enforcement, hospitals, and CPS workers,” she said. “We provide emotional support, check-ins, and help meet needs, whether that’s shelter, food, or other basic needs. A lot of our clients are younger, primarily under 24 years old, but we also serve adult (25 and up) survivors as well.”

According to Nicole, her first objective when working with survivors is to meet the needs of the survivor, which can look like ensuring that they receive medical care and shelter.

Survivors are then typically placed in residential treatment centers where they live and have a schedule, often involving school, therapy, skill classes, and other opportunities for healing. 

Nicole explained how survivors’ road to recovery is often a complex journey that requires trust to be built between the advocate and survivor.

“Human trafficking is so dark, and people who are trafficked are so traumatized and so hurt, so a lot of times they are angry and not going to let anyone in because they’re afraid to trust,” Nicole said.

“Because of the trauma they’ve experienced, they usually go to flight, fight or freeze mode. Our advocates help them express what they’re feeling and visit them and stay in communication with them, keeping that relationship with them and emotionally checking in on them.”

Nicole shared how survivors are able to triumph over their circumstances as they express their stories.

“I was able to attend a hearing where the victim got on the stand and talked about what had happened to her in front of her trafficker. She was speaking her truth, and not only was she speaking for her but for the other girls and women who had been affected by her trafficker,” Nicole said. “To see her act so bravely is inspiring.”

Written by Maddie Fossler

Unbound Writing Intern

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