Michelle Contreras and Melissa Farley

Human trafficking is not an isolated issue. Rather it is a crime that intersects with some of the most challenging psychological issues that mental health professionals deal with. There is a complex relationship between human trafficking and sexual violence, domestic violence, political captivity, torture, and cults.1-3 Human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution is sexual violence, a topic that we will discuss in this chapter. In order to understand the psychosocial needs of survivors, we will also discuss the overlaps between human trafficking, sexual violence, and prostitution. We will also briefly discuss the macro issues contributing to the proliferation of this crime, which explain some of the reasons why human trafficking is the global phenomenon that it is today.

Human traffickers search for victims who are vulnerable and desperate. The goal of the trafficker is to lure the person by presenting her* a false promise of a job that appears to have the potential of solving the victim's predicament. In some cases, even when the potential victim knows that the job will be degrading or even that she will be expected to prostitute, she doesn't picture just how bad it really will be. Furthermore, when a woman is trafficked for domestic servitude or sweatshop labor, she is usually sexually exploited in prostitution-like activities as well. The converse is also true: In Thai prostitution, for example, women are expected to wash laundry and prepare meals for sex buyers.

*Given that the majority of sex trafficking victims are women, we will use the feminine pronoun throughout this chapter to refer to the general victim population.

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