Thursday, December 31, 2015

The impact of trauma on sex trafficking survivors

Trauma (2015)
acrylic, print scraps, found images
24 x 20 inches


The impact of trauma on victims of human trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation was a running theme throughout all of the interviews I conducted. After speaking with Chrys Ballerano, Director of Collaborative Services & Trauma Resources with the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, I learned about the impact of trauma on a survivor's emotional, spiritual, and psychological well-being.

Lori Sendra, Victim Service Volunteer Coordinator with Planned Parenthood, introduced me to the work of Dr. Rebecca Campbell. Dr. Campbell, author of “The Neurobiology of Sexual Assault”, provides an understanding of the neurological reasons for victims' behaviors, such as flat affect, “strange” emotions, or mood swings. She explains the science behind why victims' behaviors may appear odd, and why they may have difficulty recalling events. Her work is important in helping our culture make the paradigm shift from victim blaming to victim centered.

The effects of trauma on victims of human trafficking can influence their behavior during interviews with law enforcement. Memory loss, lack of focus, emotional reactivity, and multiple versions of a story, all possible signs of trauma, can be exhibited. Without information about how trauma can impact a victim's statement, the victim's story can be misinterpreted as “sketchy” or even as a lie.

Trauma informed services, such as those used to support survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence, are especially appropriate when working with individuals who have been trafficked. The emotional effects of trauma can be persistent and devastating. Survivors of human trafficking may suffer from anxiety, panic disorder, major depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders as well a combination of these. Physical health problems can also result from the trauma of physical injury or indirectly through stress-related illnesses. Trauma informed practices lead to positive sustainable outcomes for survivors of human trafficking.

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