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How can Human Trafficking Victims Recover?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Human trafficking victims may be able to recover if provided with appropriate social, medical, and mental health services from individuals and organizations experienced in human trafficking issues. Many human trafficking victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and co-morbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. They may likewise suffer from physical illnesses and injuries that require medical attention. Victims may have significant difficulty navigating what resources are available to them due to problems of social stigma, having a criminal record, as well as immigration issues. Many experts believe that it is essential for human trafficking victims to have access to specialized services that focus on their specific history and needs.

Vulnerable groups of people, including the poor, ethnic minorities, and children, can be primary targets for those engaged in human trafficking. These victims may be sold into slavery. Some human trafficking victims are both sexually and financially exploited. As human trafficking can be hard to detect, the plight of many victims may be ignored, as they are perceived even by law enforcement and government agencies as criminals or as undocumented immigrants who are unworthy of aid. Even native citizens who are victims of human trafficking may not get the help they need if the social services in their area lack the expertise or the funds to address their situation.

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When working with human trafficking victims, it is important to acknowledge their specific needs. Teenage girls, for example, who are trafficked as prostitutes after running away from home may be reluctant to get help for fear of being returned to an unpleasant family situation. These girls will need some form of residential care, which can be difficult to find outside of standard group homes, foster homes, or juvenile prisons. In some areas, however, residential treatment facilities for human trafficking victims exist, providing a safe shelter for victims in recovery.

Depending on the length of the victim's exploitation, counseling or psychotherapy can be very useful in not only processing the experience but also in addressing ongoing mental health issues. For some human trafficking victims, vocational training may be an important part of their recovery, as it can help them to earn a living in a dignified and safe way. As such, a comprehensive approach is key in both facilitating recovery and stopping trafficking through discouraging trafficking victims from returning to their exploiters.

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