Needs of Rescued Child Trafficking Survivors
This page is the result of extensive research Ark of Hope for Children has done to discover what child sex trafficking victims need in order to be led from the point of rescue, to full and flourishing adulthood. The purpose of our research was for the planning of our upcoming Harbourage safe homes for rescued child trafficking victims to be built in north central Florida.
As discussed on Ark of Hope’s international child trafficking statistics page, human trafficking victims can be male or female, under 4 to 25 years old that has been traded for sex multiple times a day. Victims of trafficking may not even speak the native language, having been bought, sold and brought here from another country. Survivors need medical attention for abuse, possible drug addiction, STD's and a full range of possible mental issues including post traumatic stress.
Traffickers and pimps see victims as their property with great earning potential. Because of that victims are controlled using fear, physical abuse, drugs, mind control, alienation, moving to a foreign country, stripped of identification and passports, and mind controlled into believing the police and authority figures are the bad guys. Traffickers know that escaped or rescued victims can lead to the arrest and prosecution of traffickers, so they are prepared to protect their property. (ECPAT UK study "Watch Over me?")
The nature of law enforcement work requires immediate and detailed accounts of the trafficking; however, trafficked persons need basic services and crisis counseling before speaking with law enforcement. The early interviews in particular result in retraumatization, the exacerbation of the trauma symptoms such as anxiety and the sense of danger, memory problems and a disjointed account that creates credibility concerns.” A trafficked person is much more likely to be an effective witness that results in a prosecution if they do not feel coerced and if they have had the opportunity to get the basic social services they need.
Depending on the needs of individual victims, services required for recovery may include any or all of the following: medical care; emergency and transitional housing with long-term housing assistance; mental health counseling; job training and placement; family location and reunification; translation and interpretation; advocacy in the criminal justice system; spiritual support; criminal, civil and immigration legal assistance; safety planning; and repatriation.
Children and young adults rescued from child trafficking have far too few safe, qualified environments where they can be taken for habilitation and training for a normal productive life. All too often they have ended up in juvenile detention programs or traditional foster care. Juvenile detention is much too rigid and unforgiving, while foster care is simply not prepared for traumatized victims that have been sold many times a day for sex. They need more stability than traditional foster care, which often bounces children from home to home. They will most often run away, back to the dangerous life that had endangered them or succumb to suicide, alcohol, drugs on the streets.
Teens are often placed in foster care and juvenile detention. They are NOT criminals, but victims, and most foster parents will have no idea how to meet their complex physical and psychological needs. There is most often no stability as children bounce from home to home in traditional foster care. Plus foster care will not take children over 17 years old so where do they go? Of the 20,000 released from foster care in the U.S. every year, 25% are jailed within 2 years and a vast number homeless.
Victims of child sex trafficking need stable, long term environments to live in with care takers that will patiently help them transition from their past life of controlled abuse to healthy independence. Survivors must also receive full access to medical, emotional, educational and legal assistance.
Male victims are overlooked for rescue or for rehabilitation. In our third interview video Blair Corbett has attempted to raise the level of awareness of the issue of male sex trafficking victims. In the rescuing sense, do we even pay attention to what a male child prostitute looks like? If selling themselves on the street, would we even know what to look for? Is society biased treating males as if "they enjoy it" so they can't be victims?
Male child abuse victims have proven to be every bit as traumatized as females. In some cases, even more so due to the very nature of being a male victim. Embarrassment and shame leave the victim unable to share, so the tendency towards suicide is even greater. Ark of Hope for Children has found only one safe home within the U.S. that provides any bed space at all for rescued males. Yet the Penn State scandal of 2011-12 and others like it show the very high demand for young males worldwide.
Caregivers must earn the survivors trust, and be capable of developing quality relationships with individuals of varying maturity levels. They must be willing to listen to victimized people who may have not had anyone truly care about them for years, if ever. They must provide an environment for education and learning skills that coach survivors to become flourishing self reliant adults. In doing so, the adults or organization must be capable of committing to the living arrangements for survivors well into their twenties. With these thoughts in mind, Ark of Hope for Children has planned its Harborage Child Trafficking Safe Homes as a place to habilitate, transform and restore child sex trafficking victims.