Sex & Modern Slavery: How sex trafficking victims can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society
Sex-trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes against humanity and is often referred to as modern slavery in the present-day scenario. The precise number of victims that fall prey to traffickers and get inducted into this system is unknown. However, a general estimation by the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggests that about 40.3 million people are in modern slavery globally with thousands in the US. The victims of the crime comprise men, women, children, foreign nationals, and US citizens. Many of these victims are transported across the border and are lured in by traffickers with promises of a better life. As trafficked victims, they cater to the needs of the traffickers and are brainwashed and controlled to believe that the situation they are in is what's best for them. Hence, they are often unable to escape from the clutches of their traffickers.
Sex-trafficking is an illicit business, that has a presence everywhere. Victims are exploited to the point that they are left traumatized. Rescuing victims, while not difficult can prove to be challenging. Some of these are sworn to a 'trauma' bond where they are threatened to secrecy in exchange for their life or freedom. However, rescued victims battle emotional and physical scars, resulting in them having problems reintegrating into society. Recovery also becomes a long process, where rehabilitation and help coupled with a perception of kindness are at play. But the traumatic experience, especially the ones that victims of trafficking have, are not easy to overcome. While they may be able to come to terms with it with time, it is never forgotten.
Rehabilitation is not an event, it a process that requires time, effort, and patience. When a victim is identified and rescued, they should immediately be brought to shelter provided by NGOs working with victims, or of the host country, where they can undergo a recourse and recovery. It is imperative that they seek help as soon as possible, but it is also important to note that rescued victims often feel displaced and need immediate help, which can come in the form of medical professionals like psychologists or therapists. Victims of sex-trafficking understand the dysfunctional situation that they were in and they know how to navigate through that, but when they are finally free and faced with the outside world, they're like a fish out of water.
Returning control to the victims
Victims of sex-trafficking are often reluctant to share their personal accounts because they do not want to revisit traumatic events. In these events, they must be empowered and encouraged to share their stories in a way that does not make them feel pressured. This is the key to set them free because when they break their silence is when perpetrators are one step close to being caught. However, telling their stories for the first time should be done with a qualified professional in a controlled environment. They must be given their space so they can ponder over what makes them feel safe. They become a survivor only when the space has been created for the trafficking victim to see themselves as a person, and not as an object.
Though no victim will be able to completely forget their experience, they can overcome the traumatic events so they are able to live their life without constantly thinking about it each day. Rehabilitating victims requires a focus on mental health, as it is the core of recovery. Those that work with victims of sex trafficking need to understand complex trauma. Not only is it crucial to know how to relate and sympathize with them, but there should be an understanding that the medical and psychological process involved is key to the healing process. Rehabilitating a victim means is to encourage them to move forward in life while helping them live with their past. During the process, victims are able to communicate with other victims and are not ashamed or living in constant fear. Once they are properly rehabilitated, they can return home, or start a new life somewhere else and be reintegrated into society.
Those rescued from the life of sex-trafficking are alone and have no place to go. While rehabilitation provides them with the necessary means to overcome trauma, it doesn't always entail a boarding, or place to live. This is where residential programming comes in. They are comprehensive and thoroughly understand a victim's predicament, even preventing terrified victims from their several attempts at escaping care. Residential programs understand that survivors are not always thankful for receiving help and neither are they able to express it openly because of the trauma and the trust issues that they harbor. They deal with complex individuals who have been through hell and back, and endured years of torture and trauma that is bound to have long-term consequences on them.
The final step in the process of recourse is reintegration. After the process of rehabilitation, survivors gain back their sense of control and often wish to start a new life. Many of them express their desire for employment. But the challenge in these cases is that they don't have the qualifications or never graduated school, having been trafficked at a young age. Some may have never had a job before and therefore have no work experience. Reintegration is helping victims of human trafficking to assimilate back into society so that they can have the life that they used to prior to a traumatic life. Here, they can be trained by knowledgable industry professionals who can provide training to victims in life skills, so they can become self-reliant and employable.
If you or someone you know may be a victim of trafficking, call the national human trafficking hotline at 888-373-7888 or text "HELP" to 233-733.
Sex & Modern Slavery is a campaign focused on the issues of human trafficking within the sex industry in the US. Over the next few days, this column will feature stories on the aspects of the illicit business and the role of the society in mitigating the issue.