Cultural Aspects of Treating Survivors of Sex Trafficking


WellStar School of Nursing

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The traumatic events experienced by survivors of sex trafficking are not unlike the experiences of victims of state-sanctioned torture. Injuries sustained during the period of exploitation leave scars on the body and the spirit that can prevent the survivor from having any semblance of a happy life unless practitioners understand the culture not only of the patient, but of the street or brothel. This paper presents clinical implications derived from life histories of women who had been trafficked in the sex trade. Recommendations are given for how to provide services framed within a cultural context. One of many challenges in working with sex trafficking victims is that they may actively resist being rescued. Traffickers are expert manipulators who create a new family structure of rigid rules and norms with the girls they exploit. Street pimps might use the “Romeo” approach in which they seduce the girl into loving them, creating a powerful loyalty. Others simply exert control by threatening to harm the girls'families. This technique is particularly effective with young women who come from cultures that value the family above the individual and would do anything to protect their families, even if the parents sold the girl into early marriage or prostitution. Providing culturally based care is critical to working in collaborative networks including law enforcement, prosecutors, medical and social services, and the business community.

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Hawai`I Journal of Medicine & Public Health

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Suppl 3

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