“Human trafficking is a global and domestic human rights issue that is characterized by economic exploitation through force, fraud and coercion.”

Human trafficking can be to anybody of any age, however, young girls and women are the majority of individuals who are trafficked. Traffickers manipulate and lure vulnerable individuals into a variety of cruel acts, usually being labor and commercial sex. For example, if a trafficker may see that you are unable to protect or in a place where you can not be seen by many people, this can make a person more susceptible to being pursued. Characteristics that contribute to a person’s vulnerability include: people of a marginalized group, previous trauma, disabilities, immigrant status, and family disruption. These can be increased by poverty, war, and globalization. “Trafficked women and girls encounter high rates of physical and sexual violence, including homicide and torture, psychological abuse, horrific work and living conditions, and extreme deprivation while in transit.”

Not only does human trafficking leave physical abuse but also mental and psychological abuse. Serious mental health problems that can result from trafficking are anxiety, depression, self-injurious behavior, suicidal ideation and suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, and PTSD. Physical symptoms include, neurological issues, chronic pain, sexually transmitted diseases, uro-genital problems, dental problems, and traumatic brain injuries.

In order to fight human trafficking effectively, psychologists and policy makers must work together to understand the risks of trafficking and exploitation, and prevention and intervention strategies for vulnerable populations. There are policy recommendations which include: “Safe Harbor” legislation, collaboration between state and federal officials, and humanitarian implementation and intervention strategies that should protect victims and offer resources.

American Psychological Association, Presidential Task Force on Immigration. (2012).
Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. (2007). Report of
the APA task force on the sexualization of girls. Retrieved from

United States Department of State, Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. (2006). Fact
sheet: Distinctions between human smuggling & human trafficking. Retrieved from