Human trafficking is a heinous crime that affects millions of people around the world. Survivors of human trafficking often experience trauma that can have long-lasting effects on their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the effects of trauma experienced by survivors of human trafficking using information from the book "Caring for People God’s Way: Personal and Emotional Issues, Addictions, Grief, and Trauma" by Tim Clinton, Archibald Hart, and George Ohlschlager.
Understanding the Impact of Human Trafficking on Survivors
Trauma is a complex phenomenon that can affect individuals in a variety of ways. For survivors of human trafficking, trauma can manifest itself in a number of ways, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and dissociation. According to Clinton, Hart, and Ohlschlager, one of the most common effects of trauma experienced by survivors of human trafficking is the development of PTSD.
Types of Trauma Experienced by Survivors of Human Trafficking
PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop in response to experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance of reminders of the trauma, hyperarousal, and negative changes in mood and cognition. For survivors of human trafficking, PTSD can develop as a result of the trauma they experienced while being trafficked. This is why it is vital to have trauma counseling and rehabilitation programs available to reintegrate survivors back into society.
Psychological Effects of Trauma on Survivors of Human Trafficking
In addition to PTSD, survivors of human trafficking may also experience other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. According to Clinton, Hart, and Ohlschlager, survivors of human trafficking may present behaviors and cognitive changes similar to those of victims of sexual assault (i.e., depression as a result of the trauma they experienced, as well as feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and shame). Anxiety can also be a common effect of trauma experienced by survivors of human trafficking, as they may feel constantly on edge and have a heightened sense of fear and danger.
Physical Effects of Trauma on Survivors of Human Trafficking
Trauma experienced by survivors of human trafficking can also have physical effects. According to Clinton, Hart, and Ohlschlager, survivors of human trafficking may experience chronic pain, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and sleep disturbances as a result of the trauma they experienced.
Caring for Survivors of Human Trafficking: A Holistic Approach
One of the most challenging aspects of caring for survivors of human trafficking is addressing the complex interplay between their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being, particularly because abuse is underreported. According to the first survey of 2,626 male and female victims of sexual abuse conducted by David Finkelhor and colleagues, 27% of abuse was reported by females and only 16% by males. Many victims never disclosed their experiences to anyone. A staggering 42% of women and 33% of males admitted to never disclosing their experiences at all. Child sexual abuse has grown significantly, reported by Bailey in 32% of sampled females, with number of cases showing significant precedence in females born after 1960. 1 in 4 to 40% of the female demographics have had an experience of sexual abuse sometime in their childhood (Clinton, Hart, & Ohlschlager, 2005). The perpetrators are more commonly someone the victims knew or trusted (i.e.., family members, friends, etc.)
Clinton, Hart, and Ohlschlager emphasize the importance of a holistic approach to caring for survivors of human trafficking, which involves addressing their physical, emotional, and psychological needs in a coordinated and integrated way. At Blissful Faith, our goal is to approach these needs through a biblical worldview lens that incorporates empirical evidence with restorative care and reintegrative programs (i.e., trauma counseling, skill building workshops, doula services, etc.).
Supporting Survivors of Human Trafficking on their Journey to Healing
In conclusion, trauma experienced by survivors of human trafficking can have a range of effects on their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. These effects can include PTSD, depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms such as chronic pain and sleep disturbances. To effectively care for survivors of human trafficking, it is important to take a holistic approach that addresses their physical, emotional, and psychological needs in an integrated way.