The Trafficking Victims Protection Act recognizes sex traffickers use psychological and well as physical coercion and bondage. It defines coercion to include: threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform a sex act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.
There are a multitude of ways sex traffickers lure children away, but once they have them, these trafficking victims often go through a process of seasoning which includes:
- Beating/Slapping/Whipping – With hands, fists, and kicking, as well as with objects such as bats, tools, chains, belts, hangers, canes, and cords
- Burning – Of personal items and items of meaning to foster hopelessness and demoralization or directly burning children using cigarette/cigar butts
- Sexual assault – Rape or gang rape
- Confinement – Using torture practices such as confinement to lock women and girls in closets, trunks of cars, or rooms for indeterminate amounts of time.
- Other torture techniques – Such as deprivation of food or water or various forms of bondage such as chaining individuals to items or tying them up.
- Emotional abuse – Direct verbal insults, name-calling, threats, mind control, brainwashing, cognitive re-programming
- Re-naming – Offering “nicknames” both for endearment and to erase former identity
- Creating dependencies – By instructing how to walk, how to talk, what to wear, when to eat, when to sleep, and where to sleep.
- Removal from familiarity and support structures – By transporting the victims to a new location or even underground where they knows no one
Victims of sex trafficking are submitted to numerous health risks. Physical risks include drug and alcohol addiction; physical injuries (broken bones, concussions, burns, vaginal/anal tearing); traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting in memory loss, dizziness, headaches, numbness; sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, UTIs, pubic lice); sterility, miscarriages, menstrual problems; other diseases (e.g., TB, hepatitis, malaria, pneumonia); and forced or coerced abortions. These victims are typically “used” or sold 5 to 30 times per day.
Psychological impairments to sex trafficking victims include mind/body separation/disassociated ego states, shame, grief, fear, distrust, hatred of men, self-hatred, suicide, and suicidal thoughts. Victims are at risk for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, physical hyper-alertness, self-loathing that is long-lasting and resistant to change (complex-Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). Victims of sex trafficking may also suffer from traumatic bonding – a form of coercive manipulation in which the sex trafficker infuses in the victim fear as well as gratitude for actually being allowed to live.
Victims of sex trafficking are forced into prostitution and pornography and are usually involved in the most exploited forms of commercial sex exploitation. Sex trafficking operations can be found in highly-visible venues such as street prostitution, as well as more underground systems such as closed brothels that operate out of residential homes. Sex trafficking also takes place in a variety of public and private locations such as massage parlors, spas, strip clubs and other fronts for prostitution.
If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human sex trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
This human trafficking hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human sex trafficking, will identify local resources available in your community to help victims of sex trafficking, and will help you coordinate with local social service organizations to help protect and serve trafficking victims so they can begin the process of
restoring their lives.