The recidivism rate amongst human trafficking victims is incredibly high. Victims of human trafficking who manage to break free of the trafficking world, have an incredibly difficult time adjusting to freedom. In many cases, the freedom is too much for them and they return to the devil they know.
If you can, imagine being forced into human trafficking at age 12. Could you imagine having your entire world turned upside down and your life plans taken away from you? Human trafficking victims spend their initial few months going through a conditioning process known as “breaking”. The term is normally used in reference to horses who are being conditioned for horseback riding. Breaking includes violent rapes, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and mental abuse. Victims are conditioned to fear their pimps, and to be obedient to them even if they are arrested, jailed, prosecuted, or propositioned by another pimp. The abuse used to break a trafficking victim is used repetitively throughout a trafficking victim’s experience in the trafficking world, in order to insure compliance.
The victim suddenly loses their childhood and stops developing emotionally. The victim stops developing academically, and is conditioned to develop emotional barriers. The victim loses their ability to trust others, loses their empathy and compassion, their ability to relate to their peers, loses the ability to problem solve, and develops hostile interpersonal skills. The victim becomes accustomed to only developing relationships with other victims and the abuser or abusers. The isolation they experience is used as a means to control which remains with the victim for years after the experience is over, if it did not end in death or imprisonment.
While there are resources for victims of trafficking, once they escape or obtain their freedom, it is often not enough. Victims often deal with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and develop other anxiety and depression related maladies, as well as problems such as Borderline Personality Disorder. These issues take more than just the ten free sessions provided to the human trafficking victims by nonprofits. Imagine returning home after six years in the human trafficking world? All of your friends are graduating from high school and heading off to college. We make an assumption that your family has changed, if they were not part of the problem in the first place. The only job skills you have are the illicit skills you learned on the street. The people in your local church congregation likely have no place for you, and there are very few support groups for you.
Human Trafficking victims return home from the life to find that they do not fit in. They lack the social skills, empathy, and job skills which their peers have. It is difficult for human trafficking victims to find and keep jobs, and to adapt to a society that does not understand the human trafficking problem. The recidivism results are staggering as suddenly the human trafficking life looks much better to the victim than being safely home. The devil that they know seems far more appealing than the difficult road to regaining their autonomy.
In many criminal traffickers are relentless in their pursuit of their former prey. Victims are often stalked on social media, called and lured back, threatened back, or the reverse where former victims contacts their pimps and ask to come back. The paradigm is greatly skewed as the appeal of abuse becomes the easier road than that of healing and freedom.
Reintegration programs vary across the United States and across the globe. In many cases these programs are too little too late to help these young victims. This is a flaw in the system that should be addressed, and corrected to insure that human trafficking victims have a chance to become thriving human trafficking survivors. More importantly, we need to prevent trafficking from happening in the first place. Where there is no human trafficking, there is no trafficking recidivism.