“What they did to me was evil. They ripped away all my dignity and all my last bit of self-esteem. By the end of it I had no emotion whatsoever.”
Human Trafficking Survivor, Girl A
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, defines human trafficking as an “act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion or for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery” (U.S. Department of State). Human trafficking is considered modern day slavery and is the second largest and fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world (U.S. Department of State). “Whereas a drug can be sold once, a person can be sold over and over again” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources).
Research on identifying victims of human trafficking find that they suffer from high levels of violence, including:
Physical violence (broken bones, burns, bruises, brandings and scarring), sexual violence (rape, sexual assault injuries, forced abortions, sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, pelvic pain and urinary tract infections), psychological violence (threats of violence to self and loved ones, humiliation and intimidation, restricting access to funds, confiscating earnings and passport).
Stories and first hand accounts from survivors of sex trafficking often describe the intense violence they have been forced to endure. One such story, comes from a brave 16 year old, Shauna Newell.Shauna Newell’s Story
Trafficked children like Shauna, who experience the depth and magnitude of this type of trauma, often show signs of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD involves “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence, experienced directly or indirectly with repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event” (American Psychological Association).
Signs of PTSD may include: Anxiety and mood disorders, recurrent recollections and nightmares, physical/psychological reactions to cues that resemble an aspect of the trauma, avoidance of thoughts, feelings, conversations, people, places and things associated with the trauma, lack of interest or participation in activities in daily life, inability to recall important memories associated with the trauma, irritability, startle response, difficulty concentrating and falling or staying asleep.
It can take years to help a victim of human trafficking heal from the trauma, restore their dignity and find the resilience to take back control of their life. Control that should have never been stolen in the first place. Stolen by perpetrators who would treat children like a commodity.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry said it best during a White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking:
“Money may be able to buy a lot of things, but it should never, ever be able to buy another human being.”
Watch for the next blog: Human Trafficking Part 3 and please share this post