Effects and Consequences of Trafficking in Women
The act of trafficking and the attendant human ights violations can
have very serious consequences for the victim. Women who have
been trafficked may suffer from serious health problems, including
physical health, reproductive health and mental health problems.
Service providers who work with victims should be aware of the
severe and interrelated health consequences that result from trafficking.
More general information about the healthcare needs of women victims
of violence can be found in the Violence and Health section.
Trafficking victims often suffer from serious physical abuse and physical
exhaustion, as well as starvation. Typical injuries can include broken
bones, concussion, bruising or burns, as well as other injuries consistent
with assault. Some of these serious injuries can cause lasting health
problems and may require long-term treatment. Because women who have
been trafficked have been subjected to multiple abuses over an extensive
period of time, they may suffer these health consequences in a manner
consistent with victims of prolonged torture.
Sexual assault is a traumatic event with physical and emotional effects
on the victim. Sexual assault is any sexual activity between two or
more people in which one of the people is involved against his or her
will. The sexual activity involved in an assault can include many different
experiences. Women can be the victims of unwanted touching, grabbing,
oral sex, anal sex, sexual penetration with an object, and/or sexual
intercourse. Trafficking victims are often made to participate in sexual
activities through physical or non-physical force, which can consist
of pressure from someone with authority over them, bribery or manipulation
or impairment from alcohol or drugs. After experiencing sexual assault,
a woman may experience a range of physical consequences and emotional
reactions, including severe stress and depression. More information
on reactions women have to sexual assault and therapeutic techniques
that may be helpful to them can be found under Sexual
Women who work in the commercial sex trade are vulnerable to sexual and
reproductive health complications, including sexually transmitted diseases
(STDs) and other gynecological problems. Women who have been trafficked
into the sex trade may often not have access to, or are not allowed to
use, condoms or other methods of birth control, and may only have irregular
gynecological examinations. Such women face the risk of unwanted pregnancies
and miscarriages. Women who work as prostitutes experience high rates
of abortion, sterilization and infertility.
This type of physical and sexual abuse described above leads to severe
mental or emotional health consequences, including feelings of severe
guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance
abuse (alcohol or narcotics) and eating disorders. In extreme cases,
the mental anguish can lead to self-mutilation and/or suicide. Victims
of trafficking often need psychological care as part of standard medical
resource book, Crossing
Borders Against Trafficking in Women and Girls (1999), contains
a list of the common reactions women
have after being trafficked as well as a description of the general
support needed by victims. The list was complied by Nadejda Kostadinova,
a psychotherapist with the Animus Association, a Bulgarian NGO. Ms.
Kostadinova also advises "Women need sessions with a therapist
in order to share their problems in a secure environment. . . . The
role of the consultant is to listen to the woman and to direct the
session. She/he encourages the woman to step firm on the ground, to
her capabilities and to recognize the strength, which helped her to
Women who are victims of trafficking may also face legal consequences.
Frequently, when victims of trafficking come to the attention of local
authorities, they are charged with violations of local law. The consequence
of the illegal acts is often deportation, being sent back to the country
of origin, which has a long-term legal effect on the woman's ability
to travel again to a particular country. Many countries in Europe
making temporary visas available to the trafficking victims, if they
are willing to testify against the traffickers. Even if they are willing
to testify, the women are often sent back after the trial has ended.
Some countries, however, are creating procedures and regulations that
would allow women to apply for permanent
residency through their status as trafficking victims.