Mental Health and Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking

“The world’s oldest profession” is a euphemism for prostitution. Human trafficking is the politically correct term for pimping victims into the prostitution trade. Whoring, prostituting, sex trafficking, sex work, no matter what you call the activity and the people involved with it, there’s a wide-ranging history to go with prostitution. All of it is destructive.

Hollywood deceives the public with movies such as Sweet Charity and Pretty Woman. Hookers don’t end up happily ever after. They tend to end up abused in various ways, diseased, manipulated, and dead. Males are among those victims. The movie Midnight Cowboy portrayed some of the sleaziness involved in male human trafficking, though it was a fictional portrayal of a male prostitute.

You can read books on the human trafficking topic, including Everyday Abolitionist: Discover What You Can Do To Help Stop Modern Slavery / Human Trafficking by Tate Johnston and Christa Foster Crawford, Human Traffickers by Joe Ike (the author’s sister was kidnapped, forced into Mexican border prostitution with other kidnap victims abused by law enforcement personnel, truckers, and Arabs sneaking into the USA from Mexico), Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective by Louise Shelley, Routes of Recruitment by M. Alexis Kennedy, Understanding the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children by Lisa Goldblatt Grace, and other works about the sex trade. They present a sordid education that is not for the weak hearted. The material is nauseating, frightening, and bleak. Some of the material addresses the border between Mexico and the USA, where people of all ages are kidnapped and forced to become prostitutes. Other books present a global picture of an ancient and still active problem. They address pedophilia, the sexual abuse of children, too.

The crime is global.

The reasons for it range from indifference to naiveté, to sabotage, and everything in between. The Senior South Yorkshire police officers to be investigated over Rotherham child abuse failings news story cites the failings of law enforcement personnel who failed to follow up on documented evidence of children forced into prostitution in Britain.  Protests have been launched because Facebook allowed pages like Young Hot Girls, GirlGirlsGirls, and Lesbian Teens to feature illicit photos that appealed to pedophiles. They “Like” those pages filled with the faces of victims forced into sexual activity. The Madeleine McCann nightmare in which a toddler was feared to have been kidnapped and forced into the sex trade fifteen years ago gripped the minds of people worldwide. But the living hells of other kidnapped and prostitution victims tend to lack that luster. Blogs such as have featured headlines such as UK Muslim Couple on Trial for Rape, Human Trafficking but the impact of such crime-ending efforts is not yet clear.

What is the Mind of a Pimp Like?

The psychology of pimping, and how a community can help article from the Las Vegas Sun describes some of the reality. Pimps, who sometimes refer to themselves as “business managers,” use manipulative tactics to trick potential victims into becoming sex slaves. They post “Get paid to travel!” or “Be a nanny in another county” ads. They use other tactics, too, such as kidnapping, beatings, and drugging their victims. It is not necessarily true that anyone volunteers to sell themselves for sex. This Sex Trafficking in Ontario article describes how emotionally needy girls are tricked into becoming sex slaves by fake boyfriends.

The mental health of people duped into sexual slavery is thus compromised by shame that they should have known better, humiliation at having been forced into the sex trade, and hopelessness that they can escape their circumstances.

How it Affects Mental Health

The effect of everything cited above, and details too complicated or gory for this overview, harm the mental health of anyone in the sex-for-sale business. Dr. David Pelcovitz is an expert on the effect of sex abuse on children and adults. He is the director of psychology at North Shore University Hospital-NYU School of Medicine and clinical professor of psychology at NYU School of Medicine and teaches about how to educate children about appropriate behavior between adults and children, how to train ourselves to listen when children speak, and to notice changes in their behavior, when and how to take action when someone has broken normal boundaries, and implementing community resources to prevent children from being victimized. He and other mental health professionals familiar with the effects of human trafficking alert the public to the possibilities of resulting anxiety, eating disorders, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and trust issues.

Victims can be further traumatized by the silencing efforts of authority figures threatening or harassing them into shutting up about having been trafficked and by whom. Why those authority figures intimidate human trafficking victims is the topic for a different article.

Related Articles