Justina was promised a new life, one completely different from what she had known. She was going to be the change her family had prayed for. This new life was full of opportunities and she could become wealthy in no time she was told.
Having been through abject poverty all her life, there was no way this new opportunity seemed fishy to her. This was the big break she and her family needed. Besides, it was a trusted friend who was taking her on this journey.
Justina was, however, falling prey to a beautifully crafted lie. She was taken to a brothel in a country where she knew no one and couldn’t speak their language. Her body was sold to countless customers every day. She was told she had to pay her debt before she could ever be free.
Justina’s story is similar to most girls rescued from trafficking. They get caught in this vicious circle for years with some girls and boys roped in early between the ages of 12-15. In a study from the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, an estimated 3.8 million adults and 1 million children were victims of forced sexual exploitation in 2016 around the world. Quite shocking in a “woke” world but this is still simply a statistic as there are still a countless number of children who are unaccounted for or who are children of the trafficked victims. This poses another dilemma; what happens to children of girls sold into prostitution who have nowhere to live except with their parents in the brothels? The answer is as direct as the thought you just had. They stay with their mothers and get to experience them being sexually used and objectified. It is a terrifying thing to see or even think about but these children have front row seats to this type of experience with most of them thinking this is what life should look like or how it should be.
In some countries, these children become the hoodlums of society. Whereas in reality, they’re just living a life they perceive as the right or only way to live. Most don’t have a purpose and are roped into a lifestyle of trafficking, drugs, cultism, and violence. This is why sometimes just rescuing girls from brothels is not enough and the process of rehabilitating, reintegration into society, and the journey to self-discovery is priceless.
It is nesecarry to note that three of every five trafficked girl wants to be rescued. No one likes a life they’re forced into. You can literally see the desire to leave their current lifestyle into something of their choice. However, what might come as a surprise to you is that 85% of the time, most girls either go back into prostitution or fall back on an addiction. This is because of the absence of purpose in their life. Not only that, swapping sex for money is the only way they know to make a living for themselves. They don’t have the quality education or skills to help them survive the real world. Most NGOs aren’t just faced with the challenge of how to rescue trafficked girls but how to effectively help them understand their lives matter and they were made for so much more (this is in no way intended to demean all the hardwork put into rescuing trafficked girls).
When the trafficked girls are rescued they are depressed, passive, fearful, isolated, broken, and mad at society. The daunting experiences of force, oppression, abuse, control and glorified slavery render them in a distorted state with only the present time as somewhat relevant. The experience modifies the victim’s mental health; basically paralyzes emotions, and sometimes shatters any for of self-esteem they once had. To cope with the traumas, they become vulnerable with the emotions overtaking them after the horrible experience. They use defense mechanisms such as denial, psychological and physical distancing to cope with the event and help their traumatized emotional state. Every single one are scarred for life and have lost hope. Most times, the closer the relationship of the trafficker to the victim, the more severe the damage.It becomes difficult to completely trust anyone. This is part of why rescuing isn’t sufficient and self discovery is important. The journey towards recovery, healing, and self-discovery usually begins with rehabilitation.
Sequel to the rescuing of girls trafficked into prostitution, rehabilitation for them begins. This is necessary because it helps them get to discover who they are and what they can be again. The rehabilitation phase ought to be carried out by a team of professionals from the field of medicine, law, social work, psychology, and even business. They would begin by analyzing the girl’s physical and mental pathology through personal interview, observation, and record-keeping with as much love as possible.
It is basically the process of understanding where they’re coming from mentally and physically. At the same time, showing them where their future can be. Usually, the process is done alongside family therapy where if possible, the offender can be brought to apologize to the child.
Rehabilitation helps the girls get back up, keep or improve abilities that they would need for their daily life. It seems like an easy task that can be done by just talking. However, it is an expensive and rigorous exercise where only professionals can properly handle it.
During the reintegration phase, the professional team tries to get the victims resume normal lives after careful evaluation of risk or push factors within the community. Actions to be taken by the girls would be created to handle such situations(risk factors). It is helping them take baby steps in finding meaning in their lives again. Like babies, they might be overwhelmed by the whole process but it is a marathon for them and not a sprint.
This is a journey every victim of human trafficking must embark on. At the end of the journey (even though it varies for individuals), they become inspiration to other victims, non-victims, and counsellors that there is yet hope for them.