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


Recent trauma studies have deepened our understanding of trauma and its impact. They describe a complex range of post-trauma symptoms and identify the interactions of multiple factors as contributing to their seriousness (Briere & Spinazzola, 2005).  For example, more serious symptoms are associated with histories of multiple victimizations, often beginning in childhood and resulting in disruptions of parent-child relationships (Ford & Kidd, 1998; Turner, Finkelhor & Ormrod, 2006). More profound impacts are also associated with co-occurring behavioral health problems, like substance abuse disorders, (Acierno, Resnick, Kilpatrick, Saunders, & Best, 1991) and with a range of other issues, like limited social supports, lower socioeconomic status, and stigma associated with particular traumatic events (Brier & Spinozzola, 2005).

Trauma exposure occurs along a continuum of complexity, from the less complex single, adult-onset incident (e.g., a car accident) where all else is stable in a persons life, to the repeated and intrusive trauma frequently of an interpersonal nature, often involving a significant amount of stigma or shame and where an individual may be more vulnerable, due to a variety of factors, to its effects (Briere & Spinazzola, 2005, p. 401).  It is on this far end of the continuum where victims of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, can be placed.

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