I am writing this article to honor all victims and survivors of human trafficking this "National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month", 2017.
Recently, and because advocates have been working to create public awareness, the term 'human trafficking' has become nearly a household term. But, how many people know the actual definition? Is the public aware that human traffic victims and survivors include nearly all abuse and trauma survivors? If you are a trauma survivor, do you know whether you are also a survivor of human trafficking? If you are a professional, are you aware of how human trafficking affects trauma survivors differently than if they were not exposed to human trafficking? Are you able to identify trafficked victims/survivors by their behavior?
Let's first take a look at the definition of 'human trafficking':
"The use of force, deception or coercion to exploit human beings as commodities. This exploitation is sometimes motivated by greed for money, and at other times it is motivated by greed of a different variety. A much more elaborate definition is given in international law, under what is known as the Palermo Protocol. What is conspicuous by its absence from the simple informal definition provided is any reference to movement. This is because trafficking does not mean movement. It means trade." (ɗค۷ٱɗ ɭѻɦคก, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-human-trafficking-david-lohan?trk=hp-feed-article-title-share).
We can all agree that children who suffer abuse are affected throughout their life. One effect is their loss of a clear sense-of-self. Most grow up understanding that they do have value, but view themselves more as a commodity then a human being with an individual essence or 'soul'. Abusers steal this basic knowledge from their victims during abusive situations - regardless of the actual abuse. Victims learn that the abuser's motivation is what defines them as who they are in the world rather than each being special and significant as an individual.
Clearly, abusers do have motivation for hurting other people, especially children. They are always motivated by personal gain. I venture to say that most survivors of abuse are also victims of human trafficking. Understanding this concept may help many survivors, professionals, and supporters understand some of the behaviors and beliefs that victims and survivors exhibit.
For instance, I am a trauma survivor. Early in life, I learned that my value was in pleasing abusers. And, there were many abusers in my life. Each had different motives, but all used me to fulfill their needs - both financial and personal. My needs were only considered when I was compliant. If I didn't comply, I was punished, and the punishment was to deny my basic needs. I learned that my needs can only be met for a price.
Consequently, I became a 'people pleaser' knowing that I could get whatever I needed by being all that other people wanted or needed. I learned to adapt to everyone as well as my environment by changing myself to be what others expected of me - a coping skill that many abuse survivors in my position utilize, essentially hiding the fact that their sense-of-self was bought and sold by past abusers, their true self remains buried somewhere within their psyche.
Trauma survivors may recognize this lack of sense-of-self, but not realize that they are victims or survivors of human trafficking. Many remain victims throughout their life, believing that everything good comes with a price. I had not thought about this connection between human trafficking and childhood trauma until I heard Laura Brown, PhD speak about her new book, "Not the price of admission: Healthy relationships after childhood trauma" during the 2017 Trauma and Dissociation Conference.
"Adult survivors know that being exploited, used, and sometimes abused in their connections with others feels like normal life, even if they have come to know that it’s wrong.
Not the price examines how these core beliefs were set in place, and then explores the ways in which survivors can learn how to stop paying prices. It’s my hope that it will shed light for survivors on what have felt like, but need not be, painful or futile efforts to have good-enough love and connection in their adult lives."
Upwards of 40 million survivors of sexual abuse have also endured human trafficking. Let's not forget whom the victims and survivors are and spend a moment to honor each this month.
Patricia Goodwin, MA
all rights reserved - copyright, 2017. Do not copy or reproduce without permission from the author.