Tearfund’s partner LIFT sat down with an investigator from their team to ask her what her job is like and why she does this work.
 

What does it feel like to participate in a human trafficking investigation?


"In other situations, outside of bars, I feel more comfortable and confident in my role as an investigator. I feel like I bring a lot to my role because I am a woman."

As a woman, I am often uncomfortable when we go into a business like a karaoke bar to investigate. It’s not a place women usually go. You get strangers and customers looking at you and wondering why you are. Even the girls dancing are looking at you. But, at the same time, I feel unique in that I can go into those places and know what my role is. Other people think I’m a tourist but I am focused on the goals of the case. Even though women in bars like that are seen as one thing, I am not that. In these situations, I am out of my comfort zone, because it requires a lot of skills to blend in. It takes an emotional mask that you have to wear. I feel brave every time I go into the field. I know that I am resilient and can get the job done my way. 


Thailand-Karaoke-Clubs-LIFT-International-Tearfund.jpg"As a woman, I am often uncomfortable when we go into a business like a karaoke bar to investigate. It’s not a place women usually go."


Can you tell me about a victim client that stands out to you?
 

There are so many victims that I feel attached to. There is one in particular child begging case that I felt was a success. I checked in on the kids over a long period. I saw them again and again, begging in the same spot. We were able to help remove several kids being forced to beg but one of them stands out to me. I was able to see him later as a normal kid; he was only around nine years old when I met him. That was such a good feeling. Kids aren’t supposed to be up all night begging. They deserve to be kids and I got to see him be a kid again. 

In another case, I was asked to translate part of an interview with a foreign woman who was trafficked to Thailand. We were translating from her language to English to Thai and the whole interview took four hours. But all of us on the case, from the police to the victim, worked so hard to make sure her testimony was accurate and that we got all the information we needed. 

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"I feel like I read the emotions and body language of other women well, and that helps us collect evidence and be sensitive to trafficking survivors." says the investigator.



What do women bring to the role of an investigator?

Working for the last five years as a female investigator, I believe women see things differently and bring different gifts to the role. I’ve observed that, in general, we bring the gift of listening. I was also able to talk to females and kids in a different way than some of my male colleagues or male law enforcement personnel. Practically, people don’t expect females to be undercover investigators. When we go into a karaoke room, there are women pole dancing up on the stage and they make eye contact with me. They are the same age as me. I think I see in their eyes that they don’t want to be there. Or they wonder why they’re there dancing and I’m here as a fake customer having a drink. 

I feel like I read the emotions and body language of other women well, and that helps us collect evidence and be sensitive to trafficking survivors. I am concerned with how people will feel throughout a case and making sure that they are okay.

When interviewing kids, especially vulnerable kids, many of them have been hurt by adult males. Often, a woman doesn’t represent the trauma or the potential for harm and we can help them feel safe.

Panit-story.jpgThe story of Panit* is one example of how vulnerable children are to being trafficked and how important LIFT's work is.

Women are street smart. We’re unassuming. We follow our intuition. Women are used to paying attention if a guy is looking at you or following you. That gut feeling brings a lot to an investigation.

 

Why are you involved in the fight to stop trafficking?


Everyone wants to be free. If I can do something to help one person or one group to be free, that’s a great feeling. I can’t help everyone or work every case, but, when I wake up and feel free to do what I want, live my life as I choose, I want to help other people to feel the freedom that I do. This is what I can do. There are a lot of things I can’t fix, but I’m using skills and abilities to contribute what I can. 



What should people know about your job?
 

It’s unique. It’s hard. It’s an adventure. It’s meaningful. My particular role is a lot about relationships, too. We need to have good relationships with our partners, with law enforcement. Relationships take time and effort to build, and they’re even harder to maintain. But we can’t operate alone. We are here to support and assist law enforcement personnel. 

The impact of these good relationships and working well together with partners makes our work more effective. It can also help make the outcomes for survivors better. 

*All images and names have been changed or not mentioned to protect the identity of the investigator, victims and survivors.

Did you know that 25 million  people are enslaved in forced labour exploitation? 

 

Protect-Tearfund-NZ-Chanthavy-s-Story-(3).jpg

Tearfund is working together with partners like LIFT to protect the vulnerable from trafficking. Would you like to know more about this cause?
 

Yes, I want to know more about this!


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