SAFE Coalition for Human Rights

We are excited to profile an incredible organization working to combat human trafficking. SAFE Coalition for Human Rights is a volunteer-led, clinician-based, and survivor-empowered NGO nonprofit organization confronting the enormity of human trafficking at the grassroots and international level. We sat down with their team to talk about their incredibly important work, goals, and how we can all get involved.

Sudara: Tell us about the founding of SAFECHR?

SAFECHR was founded in response to the need for the voices of survivors to be heard. In November 2013, a group of human trafficking survivors attended the Illinois Psychological Association Annual Convention to present at a panel discussion. One side of the hallway was filled with a large, lively group of football kids and their moms, while across the hallway a well-attended HIPAA education session was taking place. Yet, very few professionals showed up to listen to the survivors’ presentation, and the survivors were dismayed.

SAFECHR founder Dr. Kalyani Gopal, who was Chairing the Symposium listened as the survivors shared their experiences and discussed the lack of wrap-around services. The survivors spoke of the need for creation of a bridge from victim to survivor, from insensitivity to creating awareness, and from trafficker to arrested criminal.

Dr. Gopal promised the survivors that although few people heard their stories that day, a larger conference would soon be held so that the entire world could hear.

Thus, in March of 2014, SAFECHR was born, and soon after, the SAFE 2014: First Annual Global Conference was held in Chicago with tremendous support from the local and global community. By December of 2014, SAFECHR was registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Chicago, Illinois. The work of SAFECHR has resulted in a paradigm shift in how we address human trafficking (survivor-led and survivor-centered efforts and education), as well as the emergence of a growing global task force against human trafficking with currently 25 member nations.

Since our origins, our work has continued to be centered around the guidance of survivors, who lead the direction of SAFECHR and our endeavors to serve victims and survivors of human trafficking. Furthermore, SAFECHR leadership and staff members are experienced professionals in their respective fields, including psychology, education, social work, human rights advocacy, international relations, non-profit management, and business.

Sudara: What are your long-term goals?

To work on the three Ps, Prevention, Protection and Partnerships. Our unique strengths are our strong clinical expertise working in the field of human trafficking for the past 30 years when human trafficking was not talked about much at all. We have developed our unique brand of programs in the three Ps which are now published in by Springer Publications handbook on Sex Trafficking from a Feminist View. To break it down:

Implementation of the SAFESCHOOLS: Stand Up! Speak Up! Resiliency Building program in schools, increasing awareness and prevention among students.

Global Conferences: We have hosted two Global Conferences in 2014 (Chicago) and 2016 (DC/VA) during which we had landmark paradigm shifts in how conferences on HT were held. Prior to our 2014 conferences experts were limited to clinicians and professionals trained in sexual assault and rescue, prosecution, legislation, and advocacy of HT survivors. With our 2014 Global Conference, we announced that the experts were the survivors of HT who would lead the conference in terms of goals and achievements. It was a major paradigm shift and others have followed suit with their trainings being conducted increasingly with survivors opening their conferences and workshops.

The theme of the SAFE 2018: Third Global Conference on Human Trafficking is “Innovative Response to Migration, Conflict, and War and will include notable keynote speakers Dr. Vincent Felitti, Honorable Zoe Bakoko, and Rev. Marian Hatcher. One goal is to expand the current global task force from 25 to 50 member nations, credential and certify advocates, therapists and attorneys as well as clergy in human trafficking, and highlight innovative strategies that have been successful in addressing the refugee crises, domestic human trafficking.
SAFE Villages:

  • Our goal is to create self-sustaining healing oases for those who have been traumatized by the horrific criminal act of human trafficking:
    SAFE Village™: A unique, holistic residential center offering wrap-around services for survivors and applying integrative, cutting edge, and evidence-based interventions
    – Utilizes a Victim – Survivor – Clinician therapeutic model and specialized, state-of-the-art trauma treatment, delivered by professionals with years of experience in working with trafficking victims
    – Includes personalized educational opportunities offered through an academic and resiliency-building program developed by educators and school administrators with years of experience working with vulnerable populations
    – Provides residents with medical care and case management services
    – Provides 24/7 security services by trauma-informed Veterans through the SAFECHR Veterans – Transition Program
    – Helps survivors transition effectively into society through job skills training and the Survivor Employment Program

Find a Safehouse App & Global Platform: utilizing cutting-edge, secure technology to develop a global database of residential treatment centers for survivors of human trafficking, to increase collaboration, the effectiveness of response for human trafficking survivors, and timely, appropriate placement. Our long-term goal is to have a comprehensive database of qualified providers.

SAFE Inter-ACT Program:

  • SAFE Inter-ACT™: International Anti-Human Trafficking Certification Training
    In-person and online certification course using the Training of Trainers (ToT) model
    Basic Component: Includes information on current global and regional issues involved in human trafficking; provides a toolbox for identification of victims and education of communities and agencies
    Advanced Component: Context-specific modules designed for legal, clinical, medical, and educational personnel; includes relevant theory, applications, and practices for working with victims and survivors of human trafficking


Sudara: What are your current challenges?

As with any nonprofit, the challenges are to obtain funding for our projects and programs. We seek partnerships with donors invested in protecting innocent children and women from being blindly lured into crimes against them. They find themselves isolated, shamed and drugged or otherwise convinced to live a life of slavery to their trafficker.

Another challenge is to reach victims of trafficking in order to be able to assist them with rehabilitation into society. Far too often, those who leave “the life”, try to adjust to society and then return as the chaos of their lives in the trafficking world is familiar and therefore less frightening in some ways.

Sudara: What lessons have you learned in this work?

Although there are many nonprofit and non-governmental organizations addressing human trafficking, they can be very siloed. It seems that there is not enough partnership within the anti-human trafficking movement.

We need to have a more consolidated, networked response. Global, national, and local collaboration are essential.

Sudara: How can everyday people help your mission?

It’s important for us to recognize when human trafficking may be happening, and to speak up when we see something suspicious. If all of us take a stand, we can help prevent or stop trafficking situations. If you suspect human trafficking, please contact:
1-833-SAFECHR (723-3247)
SAFECHR Hotline: 312-998-2339

One great way for all of us to get involved is by educating and mobilizing our communities – your town, city, faith community, school, university, or social media community are all great places to start.
– Contact us at to learn more about introducing the problem of human trafficking to your community or to learn more about participating in the SAFE FREE training program to learn how to identify and respond to at-risk youth.
– Schedule an event addressing this issue – a dinner, a book study, a lecture, a fundraiser, or whatever works!
If your community publishes a newsletter, put a paragraph in every issue.
– Volunteer: We welcome volunteers with diverse backgrounds, skillsets, interests, and gifts. As we together contribute our unique strengths, a stronger response and cultural shift can take place.
Consider getting certified through our SAFE Inter-ACT™: International Anti-Human Trafficking Certification Training. This training will equip you to educate your community on human trafficking and apply current research and best practices in your profession. Basic and advanced training components are available. You can contact to learn more.

Take part in our SAFE 2018: Third Annual Global Conference on Human Trafficking.
Go to or to register for the conference and make a donation.

DONATE: The success of our work depends on the generosity of donors.
Send a check to:
SAFE Coalition for Human Rights
Donate online at
Stay up to date by checking out our website and social media:
Instagram: @safechr
Twitter: @_SAFECHR
Facebook: @safecoalitionforhumanrights