We hear about sex-trafficked survivors, but many of us don’t understand the depth of their trauma. Dr. Jon McCaine, a psychologist who works with survivors in Catholic Charities Diversion program, said, “The psychological impact of sex trafficking on women is progressive, cumulative and potentially devastating as it dismantles basic human needs at the very foundation.” Here are three ways survivors experience life by being sex trafficked.
3 Things Sex Trafficked Survivors Experience
1) Freedom from Harm
The first, and most basic human need is freedom from physical harm and danger. This includes freedom from hunger, physical pain, injury and disease. Every person has a fundamental need to experience safety. Women who are sex trafficked are robbed of this fundamental belief that they are free from harm and the world is a safe.
2) Meaningful Relationships
The second fundamental need is having meaningful relationships and emotional security. Women who are trafficked experience profound isolation as they are abused, exploited, and even tortured by those trafficking them. They find themselves in unfamiliar situations with strangers - and sometimes in foreign countries. They experience a persisting disorientation and fear without a source of emotional support or any sense of being valued as a human being. They are treated as a usable commodity, sometimes even not being addressed by their name or any name at all.
3) Personal Will
A third basic need is self-determinism, which is the ability to influence one’s life circumstances. Forced compliance by physical violence, intimidation, threats to family members, and a separation from all that is familiar—removes the perception of personal options and increases a sense of desperation and futility to do anything about one’s circumstances. Profound depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and thoughts of suicide are common consequences of a life devoid of compassionate connections. Substance abuse is not only a consequence, but also often strategically encouraged to maintain disorientation and control over trafficked women.
McCaine says that for a survivor to heal from the trauma caused by sex trafficking, it takes a rebuilding of their humanity and empowerment. Survivors find this support in Catholic Charities Diversion program. Consider joining our Stop Sex Trafficking Team to help survivors get the support they need to start a new life. Or if you are or know of someone who is being sex trafficked, call 602-258-2785 for help.