an understatement. After being physically and sexually abused, they have
medical and psychological needs that have to be addressed before they ever reach adulthood. Because I was trafficked from the early age of thirteen years old and I never received any medical care the entire time I was trafficked, I
suffered many serious medical problems after escaping my trafficker, including heart problems, spinal conditions, P.T.S.D., and depression.
Recognizing health problems of victims of sex trafficking can be one way to
identify and help human trafficking victims. These health problems have to be addressed in order for all survivors to begin to lead productive lives.
Some of the many health problems that trafficking victims suffer are:
Sleeping and eating disorders
Sexually transmitted diseases
HIV/AIDS, pelvic pain, rectal trauma, urinary difficulties
Chronic back, cardiovascular or respiratory problems
Fear and anxiety
Depression, mood changes
Guilt and shame
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Traumatic Bonding with the Trafficker
Traffickers frequently confiscate their victims’ immigration and
identification documents and instill in their victims a fear of government
officials, particularly law enforcement and immigration officers.
Whether you are a law enforcement officer, health care professional or a
social service provider, there are physical and mental clues that can alert you
to a victim:
• Child victims of trafficking are often malnourished to the extent that they
may never reach their full height, may have poorly formed or rotting teeth, and
later may experience reproductive problems.
• The psychological effects of torture are helplessness, shame and
humiliation, shock, denial and disbelief, disorientation and confusion, and
anxiety disorders including post traumatic stress disorder, phobias, panic
attacks and depression.
• Other factors can also aid in identifying child victims of trafficking,
including where the child is living, living with multiple people in a cramped
space, and attending school sporadically or not at all.
• Victims may experience Traumatic Bonding (Stockholm syndrome) a form of
coercive control in which the perpetrator instills in the victim fear as well as
gratitude for being allowed to live or for any other perceived favors, however
• Traffickers of children sometimes condition their victims to refer to them
by family names like Daddy, and to refer to the other women who are also being
trafficked as their wife-in-laws.
The public is finally beginning to understand women who suffer through
domestic violence and why those women stay in abusive relationships or go back
to their boyfriends and husbands. Trafficking victims and their situations with
their traffickers are similar; they both suffer from trauma bonding. We have to
recognize the multi-faceted mental and physical problems that victims of human
sex trafficking suffer in order to identify them and to help them on their
journey to leading a healthy life.
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