This report identifies and discusses the challenges and successes of a tribal-researcher partnership in developing and implementing services for Indigenous women recovering from sex trafficking.
In Fiscal Year 2018, the U.S Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded projects that prioritized a tribal-researcher partnership in improving and expanding ethical and engaged capacity-building efforts in Indian country and Alaska native villages, based in an NIJ model of collaborative engagement between researchers and tribal nations. This report focuses on such a project, in which ICF Incorporated (researcher) partnered with Wiconi Wawokiya (Helping Families), a non-profit organization on the Crow Creek Reservation committed to ending domestic violence and sexual assault. This cooperative relationship focused on an evaluation of Wiconi Wawokiya’s Pathfinder Center, a 14-bedroom facility of refuge for Indigenous women recovering from sex trafficking. It is the only long-term residential program for trafficking survivors providing services that incorporate Indigenous healings and practices. Pathfinder and ICF assembled an Advisory Board composed of survivors of sex trafficking, experts in program development and evaluation in Indian country, scholars in violence against Indigenous populations and intergenerational trauma, and local community members. Five experts participated in the project, providing insight and recommendations on the project’s design, instruments and protocols, interpretation of the findings, and written reports. The current report describes the interaction of ICF, Pathfinder, and the Advisory Board from the perspective of the principles of partnering with tribal communities. The project’s challenges and successes are interpreted to inform existing or future partnerships involved in similar projects. As the first organization to provide services to survivors based on traditional Indigenous teachings, this Pathfinder project builds the evidence base on what works to support trafficking survivors in tribal communities. Appended references and a literature review on the topic of culturally responsive services for Indigenous survivors of sex trafficking.