The impact of human trafficking on physical and mental health
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Studies conducted among trafficking victims entering into post-trafficking services reported a multitude of physical and mental health symptoms including: sexually transmitted infections, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB), headaches, and chronic pain. The purposes of this research were to describe the impacts of human trafficking on the physical and mental health of survivors, to determine how often they encountered health care providers prior to rescue, and to describe their experiences of entering the health care system. Thirteen survivors were recruited from a local social service agency providing assistance to individuals rescued from human trafficking. A qualitative, semi structured interview using descriptive phenomenology was conducted to describe the health of participants and their experiences within the health care system. Data were analyzed using the method described by Creswell (2007). A total of four main themes and two subthemes were identified. The main themes included: traffickers as gatekeepers to care, I live in silence, no one asked, and delays in accessing the health care system. Furthermore, the subthemes of shame and fear doesn’t let you speak were identified as the underlying reasons by participants responding affirmatively to the statement, I live in silence. The participants described shame and fear as preventing them from disclosing to health care providers and others both before and after captivity. The findings of this study can be used to improve care for survivors of human trafficking, change governmental policies to increase access to health care, and provide additional recommendations for research.