A study of men and women who were trafficked into the United Kingdom for forced labor, sexual exploitation, and domestic servitude report high levels of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says a report from King’s College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The report called PROTECT (Provider Responses, Treatment and Care for Trafficked People) report was announced on April 14, 2016.
Human trafficking is defined as the recruiting and movement of people by coercion and deception in order to exploit them. It is estimated that nearly 21 million people worldwide become forced laborers because of trafficking. Researchers coordinated with post-trafficking support services in the UK such as hospitals, voluntary organizations, and local authorities to interview trafficking survivors who had contacted these services between June 2013 and December 2014.
Researchers found that out of 150 people who were trafficked to the UK from more than 30 different countries, nearly 40 percent of men and 80 percent of trafficking victims reported experiencing high levels of anxiety, depression, or PTSD. The most common reasons that women were trafficked was for domestic servitude or sexual exploitation, and nearly 80 percent reported high levels of anxiety, depression or PTSD an average of 16 months after escaping trafficking. Forced sex while trafficked was reported by 66 percent of women, including more than half of those trafficked for domestic servitude.
More than four-fifths of men were trafficked for labor exploitation in construction, agriculture and car washing. In this group, 40 percent reported high levels of anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
“Although it is very difficult to estimate the true scale of human trafficking, we know that it is a huge, global problem,” said Dr. Siân Oram, lead author of the study from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London. “Even after escaping trafficking, the large majority of people in our sample reported that they were still afraid of their traffickers. It is crucial, therefore, that the immediate safety of survivors is taken into consideration when planning the type of support required.”
“Because of the clear evidence that human trafficking has devastating and long-lasting effects on mental health, there is an urgent need for evidence on the effectiveness of psychological therapies and treatments to support this highly vulnerable population,” Dr. Oram said.