Understanding Complex Trauma and Post-Traumatic Growth in Survivors of Sex Trafficking
Foregrounding Women’s Voices for Effective Care and Prevention
Foregrounding the voices of women who have survived experiences of domestic sex trafficking in the US, this text implements qualitative research methodologies to illustrate how experiences of complex trauma have impact on women’s identities, sexuality, relationships, and re-integration into communities.
Building on theoretical understandings of complex trauma and posttraumatic growth, this volume centers insights from in-depth interviews and photovoice methodology to document survivors’ experience of sex trafficking and recovery. Outlining the nature of support and services available, the text identifies recommendations for effective recovery and in doing so, emphasizes women’s capacity for post-traumatic growth. Relationship development, therapeutic and peer-support are highlighted as primary sources of healing. Ultimately, the text affirms the need for trauma-informed, ecological, and relational perspectives in the care of survivors.
This text will benefit researchers, academics, and educators with an interest in trauma studies, clinical social work, and those working in mental health research more broadly. The text will also support further discussion and reflection around mental health services and support systems, adult trauma counselling, and mental health policy.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction: Human Trafficking Defined
Chapter 2: Human Trafficking: Its History and the Environment in which it Exists
Chapter 3: The Victims: The Pre-Trafficking Experience
Chapter 4: The Trafficking Experience: The Role of Power
Chapter 5: The Trafficking Experience: Experiences of Complex Trauma
Chapter 6: The Trafficking Experience: Impact on Relational Intimacy and Sexuality
Chapter 7: Post-trafficking Experience: Coping and Services
Chapter 8: Experiences of Posttraumatic Growth
Chapter 9: Recommendations from Survivors: Learning from Our Greatest Teachers
Chapter 10: Recommendations from Survivors: The Role of Awareness Efforts in Prevention and Intervention
Chapter 11: Recommendations from Survivors for Support Systems
Chapter 12: Recommendations from Survivors: The Role of Trauma-Informed and Trafficking-Informed Services
Chapter 13: Recommendations from Survivors to Survivors
Chapter 14: Conclusion
Heather Evans is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She completed her Doctorate in Clinical Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania, USA
"Heather Evans timely research improves our understanding of survivors’ experiences and paves the way for improved treatment recommendations, thus adding to evidence of best practice recommendations."
– Mary Kometiani, Owner and Art Therapist of Art Therapy Heals, LLC, USA
"Heather Evans provides an empirically grounded framework and applies an analytic lens of intersectionality as she addresses the topic of sex trafficking. Her survivor centred emphasis reveals the tremendous challenges survivors endure and their transformative experiences."
– Tammy Schultz, Professor of Counseling, Wheaton College, USA
"Complex trauma alters the self. Trauma wounds every aspect of personhood. It destroys dignity and hope. If we are to understand, walk with and care for survivors we need to listen, to be good students. Though there are themes, each story is unique both in experience and in what healing looks like. Listen with respect to their voices in the pages. Learn from them. Honor their courage. Work to understand trauma, exploitation and its impact. There is much work to be done to fight the evil of trafficking. We have a long way to go. This book is a good beginning."
– Diane Langberg, Founder of Diane Langberg & Associates, USA
"As we know from our own research and other research-based literature such as this book, the consequence of complex trauma on those who have survived and exited the sex trade is unique and must be treated as such. The evidence-based research set forth in this book is proof that all service providers working with sex trafficking survivors must practice trauma-informed care to ensure the immediate and long-term needs of sex-trafficking victims are met. By explicitly identifying the effects of complex trauma through survivors’ lived experiences, this book exists as an essential resource for all those wishing to become better allies, survivor advocates, and service providers."
– Shea Rhodes, Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Director & Co-Founder, USA
"Understanding Complex Trauma and Post-Traumatic Growth in Survivors of Sex Trafficking is a must have for those wanting to better understand survivors’ perspectives of what it feels like to have been sex trafficked. There is something here for those involved in social work, criminology, psychology, corrections, mental health, other medical personnel, sociologists, and those working in the field. […] The author takes readers on a journey of understanding based on the narratives of 15 adult female victims of human sex trafficking in the United States and provides important information about trauma and posttraumatic growth, two areas essential to improving our understanding of the human trafficking experience as well as improving services and support given to survivors. As both a mental health provider and educator, I look forward to using this text to educate students and improve my own clinical skills."
– Donna Sabella, Professor and Psych NP Program Director, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, USA
"Participating in Dr. Evans’ project was an empowering experience as a survivor. Not only did she honor me as the expert on my own experiences, but she held space for me to reflect on what I wanted to share through photography about my life today. I felt in control of what I shared and not once felt that Dr. Evans or her project invaded the fragile privacy of my past trauma. In learning more about Dr. Evans’ vision for applying her findings to recovery and healing efforts for survivors, I see clearly how beneficial this method can be, both as a survivor still processing and reflecting on my journey, and as a service provider seeking to center the voices of the survivors I now walk alongside in the most informed ways possible."
– Megan Lundstrom, Director of Research, The Avery Center, USA