Individuals who have experienced trafficking may have experienced trauma not only from their actual trafficking exploitation but also over the course of their lives from some of the upstream determinants that made them at risk of trafficking. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
Individual trauma results from an event, series of events or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.
Trauma is any experience, such as child abuse or domestic violence, that overwhelms one's ability to cope. It’s important to recognize the impact trauma may have on the individuals you work with and use a trauma-informed approach in your interactions. A trauma-informed approach is mindful of the impact trauma has on a person. More specifically, a trauma-informed approach:
Using a trauma-informed approach means you collaborate with community resources to empower individuals to determine their own futures. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration establishes six Guiding Principles of Trauma-Informed Care to help organizations deliver trauma-informed care. Scroll over each principal below for examples.
Diagram showing the 6 guiding principles of trauma-informed care
Consider facilitating a discussion with your staff, community partners, survivor leader partners, volunteers, and individuals you have worked with in the past to assess how your organization is doing. Do you...
- Ensure individuals feel respected when they seek services from you or your program? How?
- Create a warm, hospitable, inviting environment? Is the environment free of any items or stimuli that may create stress or discomfort? How?
- Ensure individuals feel physically safe and emotionally secure when talking with staff on the phone or meeting in person in your offices? How?
- Ensure individuals receive the information they need about trauma and various treatment options? How?
- Take specific steps to ensure individuals' privacy and confidentiality? How?
- Create opportunities for peer support, leadership, and mentoring? How?
- Identify and eliminate potential sights or sounds that might trigger reactions from individuals who have experienced trafficking? How?
Professionals working with individuals who are exiting trafficking situations can integrate a variety of tools and skills to both support survivors who are actively experiencing trauma responses and to proactively reduce processes that may be re-traumatizing, such as intake, assessments, or other times an individual needs to recount any part of their trauma experience.
Below are some skills and tools you can implement to help individuals manage their trauma responses more effectively:
- Psychological first aid
- Sensory-based grounding tools
- Self-soothing and relaxation skills
- Active and compassionate listening, including mirroring empowering language
You can learn more about each of these skills and tools in the SOAR Online module, Trauma-Informed Care.
- The SOAR Online module on Trauma-Informed Care helps professionals build their understanding and capacity to deliver services to individuals who may have experienced trafficking.
- The U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Task Force e-Guide provides practical information on how to respond in a trauma-informed way to the different types of needs for individuals who have experienced trafficking.
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