By Connor Cashel
January 9, 2019
As my first interview out of graduate school came to a close, I asked Ileana Taylor, a social worker at Safe Horizon’s Anti-Trafficking Program (ATP), the question that would resonate throughout my entire time at Safe Horizon. “What does a typical day look like as a social worker at the Anti-Trafficking Program?” I asked this, first, because I was genuinely curious. My prior experience consisted of working only with female sex trafficking survivors and I knew this position, should I receive it, would entail very different responsibilities which I irrationally hoped could be described in one short sentence. Second, I asked because Google told me it was a good interview question, and I desperately wanted the interview to go well, as I had aspired to be part of this program since I began working in the anti-trafficking field two years prior.
Connor and Ileana reminisce about their experience working together at ATP
Five months later, I sat with Ileana on a Friday afternoon laughing as we recalled her response to my difficult to answer question. It was something along the lines of “it’s never the same” or jokingly “there’s no such thing as a typical day.” We laughed because only after five months in this position, I could see how truly accurate her response was.
I quickly learned that even when a day begins to feel normal, it will never repeat itself. At ATP, I work with all types of trafficking survivors, connecting them to a variety of resources including medical care, legal services, and job training programs, housing, benefits and more. I often prepare them for or accompany them to legal proceedings. I remember working extensively with one survivor in particular. I helped her navigate and manage the criminal justice proceedings taking place against her traffickers. After preparing, I flew with her across the country to provide trauma-informed support throughout the extremely triggering experience of facing her traffickers in court.
I have learned so much about trauma’s impacts on human trafficking survivors. I have learned to help survivors identify their trauma reactions and use trauma-informed interventions and strategies to help survivors manage these reactions. While trying to continuously uphold a trauma-informed framework I have assisted survivors with a range of case management needs. This made it clear that my desire for a short answer from Ileana was even more laughable.
At ATP I also have the privilege of working with other human trafficking service providers and organizations in spreading awareness of human trafficking. I have worked with and conducted presentations to law enforcement officials, crime victim advocates stationed in precincts across the five boroughs, and participated in a briefing with United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking to comment on the needs of trafficking survivors I have noticed as a provider in the field.
My experience at ATP has so far been rich, challenging, and transformative. I am extremely grateful to have colleagues and supervisors who have taken the time to teach me and fully support me in the emotional, and practical difficulties of this position. And I value each survivor who has trusted me to help them through their painful trafficking experiences. I feel privileged to work in an agency, and moreover a program, that has taken the time to invest in my learning and fully support me in navigating the elusive ‘typical day’ which I was so curious about in my interview. Yet, I cannot stress enough how much more I have to learn.