Impact of Human Trafficking on Victims and 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 physical conditions, including excessive work 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 can also experience serious mental health risks, 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 all the more vulnerable due to their age. Trafficking may greatly impact children’s emotional, physical, and overall psychological development.

Victims may also experience social ostracism. They are often isolated from their social circles, leaving them unable to engage socially or reach out for help. Victims may also be trafficked internationally, and therefore may not be able to engage due to a lack of linguistic capability or geographic and cultural familiarity. Individuals specifically trafficked for sex have described facing stigma and other negative responses during and after their trafficking experience, especially from friends and family members.    

Victims of trafficking are sometimes forced to engage in illegal activities as a direct result of their victimization.  If law enforcement does not properly screen suspected criminals, a victim could be prosecuted and convicted.  A criminal record makes it difficult for survivors to move forward since they may be, among other things, prevented from renting an apartment, taking certain types of  jobs, or receiving financial aid. 

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