The Mental and Physical Health Effects of Human Trafficking

Published On: May 13, 2024|Categories: Mental Health|
Depressed teenage girl outside

In our modern-day culture, not many of us often encounter the term “slavery.” But it still exists – “Today there are at least 20,000 slaves under the age of 18 in the United States. According to the Department of Justice, the average age of these children is 13 years old. 80 percent of these children are girls and 80 percent of those girls are sexual slaves.”

This does not go without consequences. All of these children experience trauma and countless mental health (and physical health) complications as a result. Treatment centers are necessary for providing the care and recovery needed to help these men, women and children find wellness in their lives once more. 

What is human trafficking? 

Human trafficking “is a form of modern-day slavery. Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of forced labor or sexual services against their will.” 

“There are more people trapped in slavery today than at any other point in human history.

  • 43 percent of human trafficking victims are in forced labor
  • 13 percent of human trafficking victims are being exploited in the commercial sex trade
  • 44 percent of human trafficking victims are in forced marriage”

No one is immune to being a victim of human trafficking: “Sex trafficking is experienced by children of all ages, races, and socio-economic circumstances and occurs in urban, suburban, rural communities, and land-based nations and other tribal communities. Children who are trafficked in the US may be US citizens or children who are brought to the US from other countries.”

Human trafficking does not occur without a significant impact on the individual and their families. Being forced into labor of any kind is a deeply negative experience, but being forced into sexual labor has even worse effects due to the significantly vulnerable nature of sexual acts.

What are the effects of human trafficking? 

Traffickers are the main reason for the existence of trafficking – they look for vulnerability, weakness and inexperience in their victims so that they can more easily manipulate and take advantage of their victim’s situation.

There are so many negative effects that individuals who are trafficked experience, both physically and mentally. 

Health effects that victims of trafficking are likely to suffer from include: 

  • Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS
  • Pregnancy as a result of rape or prostitution
  • Infertility as a result of untreated sexually transmitted diseases and botched abortions
  • Effects of poor care from “doctors” recruited by the traffickers
  • Urinary infection, rectal trauma and additional pain in the pelvic region from perpetual abuse 
  • Signs of bruising and scarring from physical abuse
  • Other signs of mistreatment, including dental disease and stunted growth from malnourishment
  • Respiratory and cardiovascular complications, trouble with vision and chronic back pain as a result of working in inappropriate working conditions 
  • Additional untreated/undetected diseases that worsen over time as symptoms are ignored 

The physical effects of human trafficking are severely negative, and take an especially long time to recover from, especially in regards to malnourishment and untreated disease. But physical health complications are only half the battle – the mental implications of being trafficked leave a deep wound in the hearts and minds of those who have been used in this way. 

Mental health effects victims are likely to suffer from include: 

  • Substance abuse or addiction, either from being forced into use by their trafficker or as a means of self-medicating to cope with their desperate situation and emotional stress/anxiety
  • Struggling with complicated emotions, including shock, shame, guilt, despair, depression and/or anxiety
  • A sense of desperation, which may increase recklessness and vulnerability 
  • Psychological trauma from daily mental abuse and torture, including depression, stress-related disorders, disorientation, confusion, phobias and panic attacks” 
  • Memory loss
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Difficulty building trust in relationships as a result of frequent emotional abuse
  • Isolation – friends and family may choose to disassociate from someone who has been trafficked as a result of stigma, or self-isolation may occur on the part of the victim in an effort to manage the shame and guilt that comes with being trafficked
  • Dependency – this may occur if an individual is trafficked in another country where they do not comprehend the language well or if they are denied education and cannot appropriately function in society as a result of underdevelopment 

In order to overcome these effects and better survive and adjust to the world around them, trauma-informed treatment is absolutely necessary. 

Are there resources available for victims of human trafficking?

Yes! Countless resources exist for those victims of trafficking who are found and rescued from their situation. Not only are these survivors offered the medical assistance they need to recover physically, but they are also provided with mental healthcare, including addiction recovery and mental health support to process and overcome the trauma they have survived. 

Pyramid Healthcare offers personalized, trauma-informed treatment plans at many of our locations. This provides accessibility and ensures a better recovery outcome. To get in touch with someone today, call Pyramid Healthcare at 888-694-9996 or by contacting us online to learn more. 

Related Locations

  • Detox & Residential

    Hammonton, NJ

    Pyramid Hammonton
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