Social and Psychological Barriers for Trafficked Persons

A trafficked person may suffer deeply from the trauma of their trafficking experience and possibly earlier life experiences as well. (Remember Helen in our case study? She was sexually abused from an early age.) Trauma can occur as the result of many factors, including isolation, abuse, violence or witnessing violence. This trauma will have an effect on the person’s behaviour, which may show up in their interactions with you. Symptoms of trauma may include anger and irritability; guilt and self-blame; confusion, anxiety, and fear; withdrawal and denial. A trafficked person may also experience insomnia or nightmares; memory loss; aches and pains; fatigue and difficulty concentrating, which makes it difficult to be consistent or clear with their story.

My Story: I went through the different phases of trauma, and then I got angry.

- Stacey

Shame and Guilt
A person who has been trafficked may feel shame or guilt about the work they are doing, about being deceived, about having to borrow money from their family, about having nothing to send back home or about causing shame to their family or community. They may be too embarrassed to ask for help and may not want to reveal the details of their story.

Lack of Trust
A trafficked person may have been exploited by someone they trusted: a partner, a family member, a neighbour. Now, they may not trust anyone. They may not be familiar with how a service provider can help them, or may have had negative experiences accessing services in the past. They may not know that you will help them without asking for something in return.

Lack of Language/Use of a Different Language
A person who has been trafficked into Canada may not speak the same language you do, or have only limited knowledge of it, while a domestically trafficked person may use different words to describe things. For example, an Aboriginal woman may tell you she’s been “bothered” by a man, which in her culture may mean she’s been sexually assaulted.

Need for Money
Many people are vulnerable to traffickers because they need money, either to pay off a debt, to send back home, to support an addiction or simply to live. A trafficked person may be reluctant to tell you their story because they continue to need whatever money they can make, even though they know they are being exploited in the current situation.


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