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Encounter child victims on their terms

poika-rapsipellollaAs with adult victims of human trafficking, encountering a child victim is very challenging. Many general principles of encountering victims of trafficking also apply to encounters with child victims.

However, there are certain special features that must be taken into account to protect children, in accordance with their age and development:

  1. Create a safe environment for the meeting. A safe contact with an adult person is central to helping the child.

  2. Tell the child about your own role and how you can help them.

  3. Ensure that the child’s basic needs are met with the best possible way.

  4. Do not interrogate the child about what has happened. You should listen to the child, write down their story and answer the questions they may have.

  5. Do not ask leading questions. The child will be reading the situation from their point of view and may answer questions in a way you would expect them to because they want to please you or are afraid to answer differently.

  6. Strengthen the child’s feeling of innocence. Even though you may think the child’s story sounds implausible, do not immediately question it.  Even if the story does not seem probable, it does not mean that the child is lying.

  7. If the child has become a victim of a sexual offence or the circumstances point to that, under the Child Welfare Act you must submit a report of an offence to the police and to the Child Welfare authority without delay.

  8. If the child’s safety is at risk right now, call 112.

  9. Do not express your horror to the child. Remember that your attitude towards the child’s situation means a great deal to the child and to creating a safe environment. Even though you may find it traumatic to listen to the child’s experiences, your first job is to help the child.