Polaris Organizational Profile

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About Polaris

Polaris is founding partner and contributor to the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative.

Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris systemically disrupts the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what we do – helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate.

Polaris is leading the fight to eradicate modern-day slavery with a 3-part model that systemically disrupts human trafficking:
1. Respond to victims of human trafficking effectively and immediately.
2. Equip key stakeholders and communities to address and prevent human trafficking.
3. Disrupt the business of human trafficking through targeted campaigns.

Overview of Polaris’s Datasets

Polaris’s dataset is comprised of information obtained during Polaris’s regular interactions with individuals contacting the hotline and is not the result of a systematic survey. As these individuals told their own stories or relayed the experiences of their friends and family members, Polaris staff noted key elements of each account and this information constitutes the dataset contributed by Polaris. This information was later classified in over 120 standardized fields using detailed standards and definitions. Individuals contacting the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline were asked to share only as much information as they were comfortable providing. Upon request, Polaris will remove information about contacts who do not wish to be included in the dataset.

Helpline Data

The National Human Trafficking Hotline and Polaris BeFree Textline are not research-oriented programs. Instead, the staff of these programs are focused on helping survivors of trafficking access critical support and services to get help and stay safe. While advocates use detailed protocols to assess for indicators of trafficking, advocates adapt their phrasing and scope of questions in response to the individual’s answers and the circumstances of the call. Beyond this trafficking assessment, victims and third parties reporting these situations were not asked a set of standardized questions and only provided information that they felt comfortable sharing with Polaris’s staff to get the help they needed. As such, the data points collected represent only what those contacting the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline chose to disclose. The number of survivors with a particular attribute would likely have been significantly higher if Polaris staff had systematically asked a standardized set of questions to each individual contacting the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline.

Polaris did not have direct contact with all victims represented through this dataset. Third-parties reporting information about a victim often did not have information about some details of the situation they were reporting. Each data record indicates whether or not Polaris had direct contact with the victim.

Since awareness of both human trafficking and the existence of a victim service hotline is still limited, this data set should be interpreted as a biased sample of actual victim data, rather than a representation of all existent victims. The data contributed by Polaris should not be compared to the findings of more academic studies which included systematic surveys.

It is important to note that while trafficking assessments are conducted for each situation reported, Polaris’s determination is based only on information reported to the helplines. Polaris staff do not conduct proactive investigations to corroborate or verify the claims and statements made by individuals contacting the helplines.

Assessing for Trafficking Using a U.S. Legal Framework

Advocates on the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline receive a minimum of sixty hours of training on identifying and responding to trafficking situations. Polaris staff apply the U.S. federal definition of human trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Action (TVPA) to determine if a situation described through the helplines has indications of human trafficking. Cases which fully meet the TVPA’s standard are labeled as having “high-level indicators of trafficking”. Cases which partially meet the TVPA’s standard but are missing pieces of information need to make a full assessment are labeled as having “moderate-level indicators of trafficking”. Polaris has contributed victim records which were marked as having either “high-level” or “moderate-level” indicators. Assessments made by helpline advocates are reviewed by helpline supervisors and/or the Polaris Data Analysis Program. Initial assessments may be revised as additional information is provided through subsequent contacts with the helplines.

Situations which involve possible violations of labor rights laws but lacked indicators of force, fraud, or coercion necessary to meet the U.S. legal definition of labor trafficking are a distinct category within the Polaris dataset. At present, data pertaining to victims in this category is not available on the CTDC. Additionally, situations of forced marriage or organ harvesting which do not meet the U.S. definition of trafficking are not included in the data contributed by Polaris to the CTDC.

Revisions to Datasets

Many National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline cases evolve over time as individuals contact the helplines again to provide new information about the same situation. When new information is provided, Polaris staff update data classifications to reflect the most current information possible. Upon request, Polaris will remove information about contacts who do not wish to be included in the dataset. For these reasons, data contributed by Polaris may change over time.

Future Polaris Data Contributions

Polaris has operated the National Human Trafficking Hotline since December 7, 2007 and the BeFree Textline since March 28, 2013. However, Polaris’s internal data classification system has evolved over time. At present, Polaris is only able to contribute victim data from cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and the BeFree Textline since January 1, 2015 as the structure of data collected prior to this date is incompatible with the CTDC standard. Polaris is currently working to reclassify its historical data and will contribute this data in six month increments as this work is completed.

Polaris will contribute information reported after March 31, 2017 on a bi-annual basis. These datasets will be added once all of the data has been reviewed for accuracy.

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