awareness policy rescue prosecution aftercare empowerment

Rescues are exactly what you’d imagine – individuals escaping their enslavement, often with the assistance of antislavery organizations and individuals. Rescue operations are risky, dangerous and costly but are one of the key ways to free enslaved individuals.

Organizations and individuals working within rescue are often considered to be working on “the frontlines,” meaning they’re confronting the problem in the very areas it’s occurring. These activists risk their lives by directly challenging slave owners. They must work with local law enforcement, both in getting them to buy-in to the operation and to enforce existing legal codes.

Rescue operations are dangerous to both the enslaved and those assisting the enslaved escape. Slaves that inform authorities of their enslavement risk their safety and their families’ safety. They must determine whether authorities can be trusted and must risk the possibility of revenge if their rescue is not imminent. Individuals assisting in rescue operations are also in danger. They risk their lives and often confront violence in order to assist those enslaved. When slave owners rely on slaves and are accustomed to a low-risk criminal enterprise, they can become violent toward those reversing the system.

Rescues are critically important to ending slavery, but they’re dependent on the other phases of abolition, too. Check out how rescues are impacted by the other phases:


Education is crucial to rescue operations. First, without an understanding that slavery is illegal, it will continue to happen throughout the world. Building awareness also creates public pressure to continue rescues. Just as important, awareness of slavery drives funding for things like rescue operations. In order for organizations to have field offices to coordinate rescues, employ security officers and maintain the commitment to abolition they need funds from donors throughout the world.

Policy Making

Legislation is key to rescue operations. Laws allow prosecutors to go after slave owners and attain justice for former slaves. Additionally, strong government and corporate policies are necessary to reducing the number of slaves throughout the world.


Prosecuting slave owners is essential to ending slavery throughout the world. Until laws are enforced and the risk for using slave labor increases, criminals will continue to leverage slavery for the production of goods and facilitation of commercial sex. Flipping the tables on these slave owners by increasing their likelihood for punishment is critical to influencing them to stop.


Once rescue operations are finished, those fleeing enslavement require special care and attention. Former slaves face a variety of traumas, and they need counseling and healing services. Additionally, once rescued, these newly freed individuals often need transitional housing, food, clothing and safety from their former abuser. Without aftercare, former slaves are vulnerable to being re-enslaved.


Following a rescue, newly freed individuals need opportunities to overcome the vulnerabilities that made them susceptible to preying slave owners in the first place. Creating economic opportunities for former slaves is important so that they have means to provide for themselves and their families. This ability empowers them and reduces their likelihood of being re-enslaved.

Rescue Activities

Rescues involve a series of actions and actors. Some of the key activities supporting rescue operations include

  • Trafficking Hotlines– There are international, federal and local hotlines to report tips about slavery. Since 2007, Polaris, the operator of the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, answered 91,045 calls; 5,307 online tip forms; and 6,674 e-mails.
  • Local Casework– In partnership with local authorities, organizations rescue and remove individuals from slavery. These cases require collaboration and commitment in order to gain access to victims and successfully rescue them.