Treating the Hidden Wounds: Trauma Treatment and Mental Health Recovery for Victims of Human Trafficking. Summary


Victims of human trafficking are especially vulnerable to the debilitating physical and psychological symptoms of trauma resulting from their repeated, intrusive, and long-term abuse. Providers working with this population, in particular with sexually exploited women and girls, emphasize that trauma recovery is critical to a victims ability to repair and regain her life. However, there are many challenges to meeting the trauma-related needs of

trafficking victims, especially since a comprehensive approach, which includes building basic supports and safety as well as treatment, often crosses multiple systems of care.  Building trauma-informed and trauma-specific services offers the promise of identifying and responding to victims where they present (i.e., in other than the mental health system) with services that cover the spectrum of their needs.  Building long-term, trusting relationships is at the heart of this work, which requires time and flexible models of engagement and treatment, including peer-to-peer work.  In addition to group and individual trauma-specific counseling, a range of alternative therapies offer promise in helping victims build self-esteem, empowerment and re-connection with themselves and society.  For foreign-born victims, promising models that recognize the limitations of individualized Western treatment and the healing potential of culture and community resources show promise.

If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.3737.888.
Outreach and education materials are available at

The issue briefs in this series and the final study report can be downloaded from the following Web sites:

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