Helping human trafficking survivors
Today we continue in our two-part series on a difficult subject. Human trafficking is a global concern that affects children and women here in our own state with foster children being among the most vulnerable. Emily Frazier, LISW-S, clinical director in our children’s residential center, shares how our trauma therapies support survivors of human trafficking in their recovery.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, CCHO has received an increased number of placement referrals for survivors of human trafficking, particularly for teenage girls. As a trauma-informed treatment center, we are able to support these youth as they recover.
CCHO offers a holistic approach to treating youth who have been trafficked. We first focus on safety/security as well as connection. CCHO utilizes one-on-one time with the survivor to help foster connection opportunities based on their interests, desires and connection points. This one-on-one time occurs with clinical as well as operational team members. There is a heavy emphasis on this individualized format within the first 30 days of the survivor’s placement but it extends well past that. This helps to foster felt safety from both a physical aspect as well as an emotional one.
Additionally, music therapy is introduced early in the survivor’s program; this provides a different expressive outlet for clients. Equine therapy is another mode of processing that is offered. From there, staff therapists can begin to explore the trauma pieces of trafficking stories (as well as other traumas they may have experienced). We have seen a definite increase of children who have been trafficked by their own family members. This contributes to a unique set of issues including feelings of betrayal and rejection in addition to the trauma of the trafficking itself.
Trauma therapies are designed to help manage the emotional pieces of traumatic memories. CHHO’s systematic approach combines coping skills along with EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and/or ITR (instinctual trauma response) through art therapy. Through these methods, trauma stories are processed in a way that helps the brain encode them as past events as opposed to these issues being ‘stuck’ in the right brain and experienced as on-going trauma.
In working with survivors of human trafficking, we’ve learned that felt safety is one of the key components of successful recovery. We are noticing that there is an increasing need for substance abuse treatment as many survivors were drugged to ensure their compliance. Often, there is a hypervigilance that corresponds with those who have been trafficked. The core messages that survivors need to hear include: you are safe, you are loved, you are worth protecting.
View the previous blog post from November 5 for resources on anti-human trafficking efforts and how you can help end it.