Generally, a traumatic event implies a one-time event–a fatal accident, a natural disaster, a school shooting. Something happens or someone performs an action that produces to a scaring effect, a trauma. While the cause may seem apparent to onlookers, the response remains unique for each person, especially when the situation is an individual being forced into human trafficking.
The trauma that comes from being trafficked for sex is much different than other kinds of trauma. As I have listened to the stories of women victims off human trafficking, I have realized that they were used and abused often in their families and/or in foster care since childhood. The abuse was not a one-time event, but systemic abuse that lasted for years. From early childhood to their teenager years and into adulthood, many have known no other life. The impact of trauma bonding with their trafficker(s) only prolongs the exploitation and leaves the victims in deep need of healing.
Academia offers several studies on trauma and the effects of human trafficking, each of which is well worth exploring. The one thing that these studies agree on is that each experience is unique and there is not a response that will be applicable to all. Psychologically, the rescued woman may have shut down completely or she may react in a protective manner towards her trafficker. In the ensuing days, months, and even years, she may suffer from eating disorders, addiction, self-loathing, suicidal thoughts, depression, isolation, and more.
One critical component to recovery is to treat them as survivors, not victims. It is important that each individual is made to feel empowered and capable. They should be treated as an individual with choices, options, and a voice. And, as they grow and the fear lessens, they will begin to flourish and begin to learn that they truly are important.
And while the trauma may never be forgotten, survivors can find strength in hope, comfort in solidarity, love in self and, most importantly, the freedom to live a life of their choosing in a world they deserve.