“Leave me alone, I’m fine.” – A victim
Successful Coercion Makes Victims Go Back
There is no doubt that victims of human trafficking suffer significant pain and trauma. But most keep going back to their traffickers. That’s how human traffickers make a living. Many victims start out by consenting to offers that traffickers make without realizing how they will be exploited.
These are wide-ranging from promises of earning money from modeling to every other opportunity to make money and live a better life. Then, once victims are coerced, they find themselves with no way out. Still, many remain because of more false promises.
Others distrust law enforcement and because they don’t believe the police will protect them, they won’t leave their trafficker. For instance, they would rather get paid for sex than do it for free, even if they experience trauma, even if the money is minimal, and even if all the money goes to their trafficker.
Identity Disturbance (DSM IV 300.15)
Many victims experience identity disturbance, a recognized mental disorder that is caused by brainwashing, thought reform, indoctrination during captivity, and even recruitment by sectors, cults, or terror organizations. They consciously question their identity after prolonged and intense coercive persuasion.
Typically, when a trafficker causes identity disturbance, the victim will start to believe that they were born for purely sexual purposes. They accept that they have no hope for a different life and little value outside of their sexuality. They soon believe they aren’t a victim and it was their choice, because it is something they are good at!
Symptoms of identity disturbance include nightmares, panic attacks, inner voices, depression, and eating disorders. Unexplained medical symptoms, chronic pains, flashbacks, poor self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts are also common.
Stockholm Syndrome is another result of trafficking, which leads to feelings of trust and often affection towards traffickers.
The most infamous example of this was when the 19-year-old newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 and then helped them to rob a Californian bank. No doubt this was all to do with manipulation, psychological coercion, and identity disturbance. She didn’t know who she was anymore.
Despite testifying that she had been raped, coerced, and brainwashed, she was convicted for the robberies and sentenced to seven years in prison. She was released after two years and is now a philanthropist.
But not all stories have a happy ending, and it is vital to share information about coercion in human trafficking.
The Solution to Coercion in Human Trafficking
The U.S. Government acknowledges that human trafficking is a public health issue that potentially impacts everybody. Some people are more at risk than others, but nobody is immune.
ETG has developed supporter training to help train and empower survivors and assist others to help. The key is to provide a structure and framework and uncover harmful psychological coercion.
The ETG fight is primarily against sex trafficking. We know that victims are loyal to traffickers and we need to break this tendency. It’s a tough one, but with support and conviction, we can do it.
To learn more on this topic watch this 1-hour video about Psychological Coercion in Human Trafficking.
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