Impact of Human Trafficking on Survivors

The impact of human trafficking on victims and survivors varies depending on the type of trafficking and the specific situation.  But research has identified a range of issues that victims and survivors may experience.

Victims of trafficking are often exposed to harsh and extreme physical conditions, including excessive work, work without proper protection and equipment or the use of force by their traffickers. In addition, victims may be exposed to health risks, such as HIV/AIDS, infections, and substance abuse. They often experience serious mental health risks due to being trafficked that result in anxiety, insecurity, fear, and trauma. Several studies indicate high levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in survivors. Trafficking can also lead to cognitive impairment, memory loss, depression, and even suicide.

Trafficked minors are even more vulnerable due to their age. Trafficking of any kind greatly impacts the healthy development of a child’s emotional, physical, and overall psychological development.

Victims are also vulnerable to social ostracism. They often become isolated from their social circles, leaving them unable to engage with their community or reach out for help. When trafficked internationally, victims may be unable to ask for help or try to flee due to language limitations, geographic barriers and lack of cultural familiarity.   

Trafficked persons are sometimes forced to engage in illegal activities as a direct result of their victimization.  If law enforcement fails to properly differentiate between a victim and a criminal, survivors can be prosecuted and convicted for a situation they were forced into. Having a criminal record can make moving forward after being trafficked much more difficult, preventing survivors from renting an apartment, getting a job, or receiving financial aid towards education.

Additional Resources: 
-UNODC and UNGIFT: An Introduction to Human Trafficking: Vulnerability, Impact, and Action.

International Migration: Economics of Human Trafficking.

Child Development Perspectives: The Impact of Trafficking on Children: Psychological and Social Policy Perspectives

-American Psychological Association: Report of the Task Force on Trafficking of Women and Girls

-US Department of State: Addressing the Internal Wounds: The Psychological Aftermath of Human Trafficking

-UNODC and UNGIFT: Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners Module 3: Psychological Reactions of Victims of Trafficking in Persons

World Health Organization: Human Trafficking: Understanding and Addressing Violence Against Women

US Department of State: Protecting Victims from Wrongful Prosecution and Further Victimization


Search our multilingual global database for resources and films on all
forms of human trafficking, all over the world.