Survivors of sex trafficking have complex trauma. Complex trauma describes both the exposure to numerous traumatic events and the profound, long-term impacts of exposure. Trauma is invisible; the scars are unseen. Often survivors experience negative effects in these areas:
Physical and Neurological Health
Psychological or Mental Health
For young people who have experienced sex trafficking, the trauma consists of multiple incidents happening one on top of the next. Additionally, they are more likely to have endured trauma prior to being sex trafficked. These layers of trauma cause an intense and elaborate effect, often referred to as complex trauma.
Complex trauma disrupts development. Physiological development is dependent on our living environment. Living with the constant stress of repeated trauma, a child can develop stomach aches, headaches, body dysregulation, hypersensitivity to sensory input, or dissociation and are more likely to have difficulties in school.
The field of trauma research has grown significantly over the past decade, most importantly, it has shown us that our body is resilient. Even after a child endures years of traumatic experiences, the body and mind can heal through having new, positive and healthy experiences, that then become solidified as the new normal, resulting in the child being able to say, “I can be safe.”
Similarly, attachments can be reimagined. A secure attachment relationship promotes self-reliance, self-awareness, resiliency, curiosity to explore, empathy, self-control, and ability to navigate interpersonal relationships. Finding someone to connect to that proves to be nurturing, consistent, and accepting can provide the safe space for healing. This person provides the acceptance that is often missing in the child’s life- allowing the child to now believe “I am worthy of love.”
Multiple interventions and protective factors can equip youth, including:
Awareness and knowledge about the dangers of traffickers
A reliable and trustworthy adult
Participation in meaningful activities
Response and efficacy from systems designed to receive or provide support
Ho‘ōla Nā Pua provides a continuum of care to prevent sex trafficking, support intervention when sex trafficking is suspected, provide support through empowerment to survivors, and usher in healing.
Share the Light
“Ho`ōla Nā Pua, meaning ‘New Life for Our Children,’ was founded to shine light onto the dark criminal enterprise of sex trafficking, placing the health of Hawaii’s youth at the center of our mission and vision for our community.”