ABH Maryland

The Truth About The Psychological Effects Of Sex Trafficking


The Truth About The Psychological Effects Of Sex Trafficking

  • Mental Health

While you may think sex trafficking only happens in developing countries, it, unfortunately, is happening quite frequently here in the United States. In fact, the U.S. ranks as one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking, with California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Ohio with the most reported cases of sex trafficking. It is estimated that 199,000 cases of human trafficking happen every year, while only a small amount ever get reported. In 2019, 11,500 cases of human trafficking were reported in the U.S. In this article, we will explore what sex trafficking entails, the psychological effects it has on victims, and how the victims can seek help and treatment. 

Sex trafficking disproportionally affects women and children and forces them into involuntary commercial sexual acts. In the U.S., any child under the age of 18 who has been involved in a commercial sex act is considered a victim of sex trafficking. Annually, traffickers exploit 1 million children in the commercial sex trade. Traffickers often look for vulnerable individuals like those experiencing homelessness, runaways, those with a lack of social and emotional support, and those who are already emotionally and psychologically vulnerable. Manipulation is often used by traffickers to distort the reality of victims and make them believe that they have no other options and no one else they can trust other than their traffickers.

Psychological Effects of Sex Trafficking

  • – Depression
  • – Anxiety Disorders, Panic Disorder
  • – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • – Substance use disorders
  • – Shame and guilt
  • – Alienation from social support
  • – Suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide)
  • – Identity disturbance and confusion

Contributing Factors for Developing a Mental Health Disorder 

  • – Being sex trafficked
  • – Duration of exploitation
  • – Past experience of trauma or abuse
  • – Violence
  • – Restrictions of physical movement while being trafficked 
  • – Unmet needs
  • – Lower levels of support

After someone is sex trafficked, they may not be open to receiving help or making significant changes in their life. This is common because they are suffering from several mental health issues as a result of their trauma and abuse. Someone who is suffering from depression, anxiety, or PTSD will often find it difficult to cope, think, plan, and commit to their healing. This is why it is paramount for victims to not only get help but get the right type of professional help from experts. 

What You Need to Know

Traffickers will often abuse their victims physically and psychologically in order to foster dependency and garner control. Some survivors will develop Stockholm Syndrome and actually feel a sense of closeness and sympathy with their traffickers, minimizing the abuse or even justifying it. When victims are being trafficked, this can be seen as a survival tactic, however, once victims escape their trafficking situation, this can prevent them from getting help and sometimes even hinder them from bringing their abuser to justice. 

It’s not just the victims who struggle with the psychological effects of being sex trafficked; their family members and loved ones can also experience mental health issues in the aftermath of the abuse. This can lead to feelings of shame, anxiety, and stigma around the trafficking event for all parties affected. For this reason, there must be a wide range of healing modalities available to trafficking victims and their loved ones. However, it’s also important to note, that it is common that a family member can also be the trafficker which complicates the victim’s ability to trust in the future. 

Because there is no intervention modality specific to survivors of sex trafficking, treatments are borrowed from evidence-based interventions developed for PTSD, domestic violence, sexual assault, and captivity. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical trauma-focused behavior therapy, and group counseling with other victims are often used for treatment. The road to recovery for survivors of sex trafficking is not an easy one. It is also often complex and long, requiring patience from mental health professionals who treat sex trafficking victims. Survivor-centered approaches are recommended to validate the survivor’s experience, help them restore control, and build a sense of safety and trust.

Contact Us Today

If you or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking, there is help available. Advanced Behavioral Health offers trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and group counseling for treatment options for survivors. Reach out to someone on our team today by calling 301-345-1022 or sending us a message online here. We are here to walk you or your loved one through this difficult time and are well versed to assist with the right treatment options for recovery. Get in touch with us today.

When you think of the well-being of a child, you first think of basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are met, however, it’s crucial for a child to have emotional and social wellness as well. In this article, we will explore the impact social wellness has on the overall health of a child and great ways for children to garner social support in their lives.

It comes as no surprise that as human beings, we all need connection with others, no matter what stage of life we are in. In fact, having social support is a social determinant of health (SDOH) that significantly impacts the health of an individual. After spending the last few years in and out of isolation due to the Covid-19 outbreak, social support is more important now than ever before. Having social support means having family members and friends you can talk to and seek advice from when life feels challenging and overwhelming. Knowing you’re not alone in your life journey, especially as a child, creates a sense of belonging and empowerment throughout one’s life.

4 Types of Social Support

Emotional Support. This type of support lets you know that people care about you and have empathy for your experiences. Emotional support often looks like people checking in on you to let you know they’re thinking of you, and that they are there if you need anything. As a parent, make sure your child knows you can be a sounding board for them. If you have family members who can also show up for your children in this way, even better!

Practical Help. This type of support is when people give you something tangible or offer a service to help you out. This could be in the form of money, making food when you are sick, or helping to pack when moving. Having family and friends show up in this way shows your child what it looks like to be present for people you love.

Sharing Points of View. This type of support can often come in the form of affirmations and encouragement. For example, pointing out your child’s strengths to them and reminding them they can do anything they put their mind to. It can also look like sharing another perspective if they are being hard on themselves. For example, if they are angry with themselves after receiving a bad grade on a test, you can help them see it as a learning experience and a way for them to grow.

Sharing Information. This type of support is when someone shares what they’ve learned from their own life experiences. For example, if another parent has a child who struggles with socializing, they can share some tips and tricks they’ve learned to help their child find and create social support.

The Importance of Social Groups and Extended Support

Children who are connected to their family, friends, and people in their community have opportunities to learn how to speak, share, and get along with others. When your child feels connected to people in your neighborhood, it often allows them to feel physically safe which can alleviate stress and worry. Simply riding bikes, going on walks, and saying hello to neighbors with your kids can create this sense of security for them.

In addition to engaging with your neighbors, getting involved in local organizations can also create social support for your child. Signing up for a sports team, musical theater, art class or summer camp are all great ways to help your child meet new friends and learn important social skills that can carry them through their lives.

Tips for Helping Kids Make Community Connections:

Spend time outside in your neighborhood playing on the playground, going to a local farmer’s market, or scheduling a playdate with neighborhood kids.

Show your kids that connection is a two-way street. If your neighbors or friends go out of town, offer to get their mail, or water their plants and take your child with you when you go. This will show your child how you show up for people you care about.

Make sure you make time for socializing with friends as well. Your child looks to you first and foremost for how they should act and live their own life.

Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone and do something they may be scared to do. As a parent, it’s your job to push them into something social for their own well-being at times.