Set up in 2003, UHHR, according to its website, is the only federally funded torture treatment provider in Utah and was, until this decision, the lead agency of the Utah Trafficking Victim Assistance Program. Along with identifying, counseling and caring for victims of human trafficking, the nonprofit works with survivors of wartime conflicts, victims of indentured servitude - modern day slavery -
and child brides.
Romano noted in the email that "human trafficking, by nature, is extremely violent and complex; we cannot assume the level of risk and potential harm to staff and clients at this time." She thanked partners in the law enforcement and legal community for their assistance. "With your help, men, women and children were identified, rescued and provided the opportunity to live free of fear, violence and imprisonment."
While some expressed concern over nonprofit UHHR's future federal funding, now that it is relinquishing victim assistance, Romano says "the agency is moving forward." The funding stream for its torture treatment program is not connected with the human trafficking work, and so its key role in providing counseling and support for torture victims will continue uninterrupted. Romano stated in the email that the agency will work on designing and implementing human trafficking assistance programs, presumably to be put into effect by other agencies in Utah.
Whether other nonprofits will be willing to continue UHHR's work is debatable, since they will have to look closely at security issues after the UHHR's decision to retreat from working with victims. One question some advocates want answered, however, is why federal and state agencies aren't more proactive in protecting human trafficking victims. "Federal and state agencies should be doing more," said one advocate. "While there is federal funding, there isn't safety." Either for UHHR staff or victims, it seems.