The Mental Health Consequences of Human Trafficking
Victims also suffer from many physical ailments that were caused by abuse they received from their abuser, or they develop new health problems that result from unresolved mental health problems. The mental health issues that are found in victims can be very serious and need to be treated by professionals. Many of the victims choose not to seek help because of shame, fear, and lack of resources. “We can’t address issues of employment, life skills, or anything else until we address the trauma” (Clawson, Salomon, & Goldblatt Grace, 2008).Victims have to seek help and treat their mental health issues if they want to move forward and have a productive life. Human trafficking does not care what age a person is or the gender of that person.
The only thing that a buyer or a seller cares about is if the person can make money or provide the services that were promised to them. When one looks at human trafficking there are a few things that a person needs to look at to be able to understand it better. If a person looks at the statistics of the age and gender one would be surprised at what they would find.One type of human trafficking is the forced labor that they are put in. It has been found that 56% of forced labor is made up of woman and girls and 44% are made up of men and boys (Hepburn & Simon, 2010). If a person would count all the victims in that part of the human trafficking ring then one would see that 12. 3 million of those are part of forced labor which makes up about 32% (Hepburn & Simon, 2010).
One must remember that out of these numbers 40-50% of the population is children that are brought to the United States as forced laborers (Hepburn & Simon, 2010).One example of forced labor happened in the United States right after a Hurricane Katrina. Two months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans about 1,383 Thai nationalists were brought over with promise of work. When they arrived they were put to work in the damaged buildings that still did not have electricity or any running water. These are the same buildings that they were told to live in. When they cooked the food that they could catch they ended up using contaminated water.There were times that they had to place traps for pigeons so that they would have food to eat (Hepburn & Simon, 2010).
By the time the state department and the human service workers stepped in they had a total of nine cases against the traffickers (Hepburn & Simon, 2010). One might wonder why a person would stay in a situation like this. The traffickers end up using coercive tactics so that the person does not leave. If the person is from another country then most likely they do not know the language and they are unable to communicate with other people.The victims are under constant surveillance, they are isolated, they get threats of retaliation towards family in their home country, and all their documents are confiscated once they arrive (Regan, 2000). There are other types of human trafficking also. There is commercial sexual exploitation and 98% of that is woman and girls and 2% are men and boys (Hepburn & Simon, 2010).
The CIA has estimated that in the United States alone there is about 50,000 woman and children that are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation like prostitution, live sex shows, stripping, and pornography (Hepburn & Simon, 2010).One of the most common types of human trafficking is the debt bondage. This is where the woman (girls) and men (boys) have to work and they do not receive any of the money because it is all used to pay back the ravel expenses, room, and food (Regan, 2000). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) makes it possible for the victims that are found to become eligible to receive federal and state benefits and services (Hepburn & Simon, 2010). In 2008 the HHS certified a total of 286 foreign adults so that they may receive these benefits and receive some help that they have not had in a long time (Hepburn & Simon, 2010).Human Services professionals can aid the victims of human trafficking in some very important ways, which are; to discover and identify victims of human trafficking, to provide aid in helping them become free and seek help, by educating potential target populations about the perils human trafficking, which includes teaching them how to identify potential traffickers, and by participating in organizations that provide aid to the victims of human trafficking.Salett, 2011), Most of the victims of human trafficking in the United States are brought to America from foreign countries, so when they are rescued the only people they can usually depend on for aid, comfort, and rehabilitation are human Services professionals.
According to (Salett, 2011), “All of these roles need to be filled in every community where human trafficking exists in order to locate victims, help them rebuild their lives, prevent others from being trafficked and enslaved, and end this horrific crime once and for all. ” Human Services professionals need to be able to identify victims of human trafficking in order to be of assistance to them.Some of the signs that Human Services professionals can be aware of, which indicates somebody is a victim of human trafficking are; bruises, cuts, and other injuries that indicate a person is a victim of physical abuse, people who behave shyly, depressed , or fearful, people who are obviously being controlled by someone else, many people living together in a small area, people with out any identification documents, people who are not allowed to quit their jobs, people who live with their employers, people who earn less than minimum wage, and people who just recently arrived in America from countries that have a high human trafficking rate. Salett, 2011). When Human Services professionals become suspicious that they have come across people, which they believe are victims of human trafficking there are certain questions that they can ask to determine if their suspicions are correct. For example, suspected victims could be asked about how much their employer pays them per hour. Questions to Ask A Potential Victim • How much does your employer pay you regularly? • Is this the kind of work you expected to do? • What do you do on your day off? • Have you stayed in contact with your family? • Does your family know how to contact you? Have you been to a doctor or dentist recently? • Do you have your passport/ID? • If not, who has it? 1.
Identifying Victims Despite legislation outlawing trafficking, finding and helping victims to escape is a complex process. Most trafficking victims don’t understand their rights, are fearful of people in law enforcement, fear repercussions to themselves and their families if they incur the wrath of their trafficker and are not aware of agency or community resources that may advocate for them. Furthermore, they may be deported as ‘illegal aliens’ if they refuse to testify against their trafficker.Social workers serve as a key access point to services in the social and health care systems; they also have an important role to play in helping to identify individuals who may be trafficking victims and assisting them to obtain needed services. Learning to ask the right questions and looking for small clues that may suggest a person is coerced into a life of sexual exploitation or forced labor forms the basis for identifying a victim. The victim or trafficking survivor typically experiences psychological trauma that can upset the individual’s physical and mental ability to respond to stress and danger.This in turn can lead to the survival reactions of “fight, flight, or freeze,” often making it difficult to diagnose an individual’s needs.
After identifying a trafficking victim, social workers need to make appropriate referrals to social service provision and advocacy groups specializing in assisting trafficking survivors. Survivors each have some critical decisions to make, including whether they wish to collaborate with law enforcement officials (see Anti-Trafficking Legislation below).Such decisions affect whether survivors are eligible for support services and for a visa to stay in the US, but also may affect their own safety or the safety of their loved ones in their countries of origin. These high stakes require that social workers and relevant agencies have accurate and up-to-date information to share with survivors so they can make informed decisions. Victims, especially victims of sex trafficking, are sometimes reluctant to discuss the circumstances of their trafficking.This may be due to the stigma attached to commercial sex or simple shame at the nature of the degradation. The reluctance of victims to share their stories can make it more difficult to gather the information necessary to provide them with an appropriate referral.
2. Organizations That Specialize in Assisting Trafficking Victims Essential services for a survivor include: • immediate assistance such as housing, food, medical care, safety and security; • mental health counseling; • reconnecting with supportive family members; • cash assistance; and legal status assistance with visa certification and immigration. Issues of culture, power, privilege, and oppression all play a role in the relationships that social workers develop with survivors. Understanding the journey and the experiences they have endured, including the historical, cultural, social and economic context of the survivor’s life are essential to working effectively with a survivor of trafficking. Social workers need to be flexible in how they work with a survivor, many of whom come from cultures that do not use Western models of counseling and therapy.Taking into account issues of language, religious practices, race/ethnicity, class, customs, and values are all important variables that will impact the effectiveness of a social worker providing services to a trafficking survivor. Social service providers working directly with trafficking survivors should also know the details of the anti-trafficking law in the United States and the survivor’s country of origin in order to help survivors make informed decisions and navigate the bureaucracy when needed.
In the US, the Trafficking Victims and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) became law at the national level in October 2000.It focused specifically on concerns relating to human trafficking and created the tools to enable the U. S. government to address the prosecution of traffickers, protections for victims of human trafficking, and prevention of human trafficking. The law was amended in 2003 to eliminate, among other provisions, the requirement that a victim between the ages of 15-18 must cooperate with the prosecution of his or her trafficker in order to be eligible for a T-visa. Trafficking victims are often uncovered through investigations into housing code enforcement, worker safety, and commercial sexual activity.Recognizing that these investigations are usually conducted by state and local authorities, many states have enacted or are considering enacting anti-trafficking legislation.
The ‘best practices’ in helping trafficking survivors rebuild their lives are still being researched, tested and written. Therefore, social workers have a role in identifying ‘promising practices,’ improving upon them, and reporting lessons learned with other practitioners. 3. Educating Vulnerable Populations About the Dangers of Human Trafficking Even social workers who do not work directly with an anti-trafficking organization have an important prevention role to play.Many social workers come into regular contact with populations that are most vulnerable to slavery and can raise their awareness of the dangers of being trafficked or exploited after their arrival in the U. S. and of the resources available to help them.
Social workers bring special expertise in understanding the systemic issues that are implicit in assisting victims of trafficking and can become strong advocates for this diverse and underserved population. Elizabeth Pathy Salett, LICSW, is a member of the NASW International Committee and President, of the National MultiCultural Institute of