ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Since the pandemic, a domestic violence and trafficking organization in Westchester has seen an increase in survivors seeking help. My Sisters’ Place has been around for over 40 years, they provide a 24-hour shelter, legal services and education and outreach for those who have experienced domestic violence or trafficking. 

Christina Tanzola is Director of the Human Trafficking Program. She says there’s a connection between those experiencing domestic violence and trafficking, “Oftentimes with trafficking the trafficker can be somebody a person knows. It usually starts as a relationship and domestic violence can be involved, a lot of violence and power and control happens and then it kind of turns into trafficking.”

Tanzola says traffickers create and establish trust in a relationship before the trafficking begins. While My Sisters’ Place does offer legal services, more often than not, survivors are not looking to press charges. They just want to heal and move forward, “A lot of times we get survivors who the trafficking has happened to them years before, a person is just in a different place, they’re ready to talk, they’re ready to share and ready to get resources.”

And when it comes to sex trafficking, Tanzola says the trafficker may very well still be involved in the survivors life, “Whether it’s still living with them or knows where they are, you know what’s very frightening for many survivors is that other people know the trafficker or other people might know who this person is.” 

But confidentiality is first and foremost at My Sisters Place. So what are some things you and I can watch out for? “If it seems like somebody seems just very, I say standoffish but I would just say somebody who’s kind of just keeping to themselves kind of trying to hide from the public eye,” Tanzola explained.

If you’re concerned that someone is being trafficked you can call local authorities or My Sisters’ Place 24-hour hotline at 1-800-298-7233.