Physical and psychological injuries
In the case of trafficking, widespread violations of the Human Rights take place and produce extremely serious consequences for the victim. Social and relief workers in crisis centres should therefore be aware of the severe and individual health issues which human trafficking can cause.
People who have been trafficked often suffer from critical physical and psychological problems and in some cases even from starvation. Physical injuries include e.g. broken bones, concussions, bruises, burns, and other injuries caused by physical abuse. Some of these severe injuries can cause on-going health issues and need long-term treatment.
Those who have been trafficked have often, during a long period of time, suffered a number of physical assaults. Consequently, the women may suffer from the same health issues that the long-term victims of torture suffer from.
Sexual abuse is a violent and traumatic experience which often affects the victim physically and emotionally. All types of sexual activities between two or more people where at least one of the partners is involved against his or her wishes qualify as sexual abuse.
The sexual activities involved in a sexual assault may include various cruelties such as unwanted groping, humiliations, forced intercourse, anal sex, oral sex or penetration with an object.
Often, the victims are prostituted by ringleaders, who force the women to take part in sexual activities by threats, bribery, and cruel manipulation, or by taking advantage of them while they are drunk or drugged. The sexual assaults cause the women to experience a wide range of physical and psychological reactions including severe stress and depression.
It may take many years for the victims of human trafficking to heal their wounds, if, that is, they ever succeed in moving on in life.
Sex for sale
Regarding peoples motivations enter the sex industry, four different categories can be defined based on the prostitutes’ differing degree of freedom of choice. At times the four categories within prostitution overlap, and one woman can pass back and forward between different categories.
The first category
Consists of self-starting women who have a good and well-paid business independent of pimps. Many of these women enter the line of prostitution because of the high pay, and some consider it a job on equal footing with other jobs. The women in this category are often citizens in the country where they work. This category does not involve trafficking.
The second category
Consists of women who occasionally prostitute themselves to supplement their main income also from a position that allows them the freedom to make their own choices. Their reasons for entering prostitution may be the same as in the first group, and often they are not affected by exploitation from pimps or other middlemen.
Many from this category are young women who are trying to find a way into other careers and sometimes work in the sex industry taking part in prostitution, strip or pornography. Often the women in this group are citizens of the country they work in. This category does not involve trafficking.
The third category
Consists of women who have been pressured into prostitution because of serious economic hardship or/and a lack of other opportunities. They enter the sex industry in a position of powerlessness and are often forced to submit themselves to extreme forms of exploitation by other people in the sex industry such as pimps or criminal gangs.
Many from this category are women from economically stricken areas in Eastern Europe, Africa, Balkan and Southeast Asia. Women in this group are often mercilessly exploited by other segments in the sex industry and prostituted in the streets, closed brothels or isolated houses. The use of violence and other extreme methods vary in severity depending on place and circumstances, and it is very difficult to assess exactly how many are exploited and how. This category may involve trafficking.
The fourth category
Consists of women and children who are outright victims of trafficking, women who have been lured abroad with false promises such as fake job ads or dishonest marriage proposals. What is common for the women is that they are later forced or pressured into prostitution. It also includes women who are deceived regarding the conditions of their prostitution.
The criminal masterminds behind the victims’ exploitation take almost all of their commission. This means that the victims are never able to realise their dream of a better life and financial stability in their homeland or the country they work. This category is trafficking.
The three following stories are all based on true events and will hopefully provide an understanding of what trafficked women typically go through. There are both many less unpleasant and more unpleasant versions of these stories. The following are just examples.
Abused throughout all of her life
Lithuanian Maja has been abused throughout most of her life. First she was abused by one of her family’s neighbours, then by students at her school and, finally, a gang of human traffickers in Denmark abused her.
Maja’s mother abandoned Maja and her sisters when Maja was just six years old. She was left with her alcoholic father and was raped by the family’s neighbour. She became pregnant and had her baby, which the authorities removed from her shortly after.
After this Maja was sent to a boarding school where she was taken advantage of by other students, who prostituted her to local men. Maja never saw any of the money her fellow students made from this “business”. In July 2004, she was sold to human traffickers, who shipped her to Denmark where she was kept imprisoned in a brothel. Life in the Danish brothel was a nightmare for Maja. She experienced gun threats, daily abuse and regular rape. The threats and violence became part of her everyday.
One day, out of the blue, the police freed Maja from the brothel after two enslaved girls had escaped and contacted the police. Maja decided that she wanted to go back to her home village. Shortly after Maja arrived to the airport in Lithuania, she was pulled aside by a trafficker who had been waiting for her.
For four weeks Maja was kept as a prisoner in Lithuania until the man who had captured her found a new buyer. Then Maja was sent to a brothel in Germany where her ordeal started all over again. In this brothel she was subjected to so much violence that, in the end, the brothel’s neighbours, alarmed by the noise, called the police, who freed her again. Today Maja is constantly travelling from place to place while providing witness information in the trials against her traffickers.
Until the trials are over (and her traffickers imprisoned) she cannot move on with her life or re-establish contact with her son. Maja was a sex slave in European cities and is still on the run from her traffickers.