After Rescue: The Impact of Human Trafficking on Survivors

By Amber Clemens

Human trafficking is a global epidemic affecting men, women, and children in over 130 countries. While researchers find it difficult to measure the impact human trafficking has on people, victims undoubtedly experience vast and significant consequences. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the top five methods of harm victims face include isolation/confinement, economic abuse, threats, and physical and emotional abuse.

Physical Harm

Traffickers use physical violence—the most identifiable harm—to maintain power over victims. Trafficking victims develop health problems due to inhumane living conditions and brutal physical attacks used to control them, such as starvation, beatings, and rape. Victims also experience physical harm from those who purchase their services for sex acts including:

  • Broken bones

  • Burns

  • Concussions

  • Brain trauma

For women, gynecologic health problems occur as well, specifically:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

  • Menstrual pain/irregularities

  • Miscarriages

  • Forced abortions

Psychological Harm

Many of the injuries and harm victims experience lead to not only long-term physical health problems, but severe emotional trauma as well. Indeed, the psychological impact of victimization may be more severe. Victims rescued from human trafficking typically suffer from various mental illnesses, including:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Panic disorders

  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

  • Stockholm syndrome

  • Substance abuse

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, studies indicate that a victim’s trauma worsens throughout the trafficking process. Many victims struggle with mental health prior to being trafficked, and the roots of their trauma deepen the longer they remain under a trafficker’s control. Unless trafficked victims receive proper support and counselling to address the mental and emotional damage, victims will continue to suffer long after escaping.

Why Don’t Victims Ask For Help?

Many human trafficking victims do not seek help because they do not initially self-identify as a victim or may blame themselves for what has happened. Further, sex traffickers intentionally misidentify women, men, and children as “willing” participants in the sex trade who make a free choice to be there, impacting victims’ perceptions.

To make matters worse, both labor and sex trafficking victims may not know their physical location or speak and understand the local language to be able to ask for help. As a result, victims often cannot and do not seek help immediately. This is why at Greenlight Operation we make it our mission to fight to free the enslaved, together.

How Can You Help?

Fighting human trafficking begins with awareness, understanding what the problem is and knowing how we can stop it together. But after knowing the harm human trafficking causes others, how can you help?

Actively seek ways to provide solutions to the problem. If a coach knows an athlete is injured, do they simply ignore the problem and allow them to play? Of course not! A coach who is aware of an athlete’s injury provides help, support, and healing to restore the athlete’s body to healthy condition. In the same way, we must provide support and healing to surviving victims of human trafficking. This is why Greenlight Operation plans to open a restoration home. A restoration home is a long-term care facility offering survivors necessary services to be restored–to heal, to grow, and to become healthy so as to succeed with reintegration into normal life.

Whether your support is as large-scale as a restoration home, or as small as raising awareness and educating others in your close circle and local community, we can all make a difference in a survivor’s healing process!