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Psychological Tactics Used by Human Traffickers

Instead of using physical violence or restraints, traffickers, some of whom are women, often use psychology to keep their victims enslaved. Many people are unaware that human trafficking is truly a low-risk, high-reward venture for traffickers. traffickers use degrading and dehumanizing tactics to keep victims enslaved. Mental enslavement is a cost-effective, low-risk approach—one that often doesn’t attract unwanted attention from law enforcement. In order to combat human trafficking, it’s crucial to understand the psychological tactics that traffickers use to prey on vulnerable women and help ensure that victims stay silent. These strategies also explain why victims may not attempt to escape their traffickers even when they have the opportunity. Bride Trafficking is annotated case of Psychological Tactics used for enslaving women. 

Bellow is seven most used psychological tactics used for enslavement and exploitation without chain

1: Dehumanization

From the viewpoint of traffickers, victims are little more than commodities. Traffickers constantly tell victims that they’re worthless, insignificant and forgotten. Victims are exposed to high levels of emotional distress induced by constant threats, fear and psychological abuse. Victims are repeatedly told they have no control over their lives and are continually reminded that they are in a foreign country where they have no papers, no family, no money and essentially, no other options. Victims are made to believe that they are helpless and cannot survive without their traffickers’ help. Such alienation fosters a sense of lost identity for victims and a sense of dependency upon their traffickers. Over time, this psychological abuse contributes to low self-worth. Victims may even believe they are at fault for their abusive situations because they were foolish enough to be tricked in the first place.  

 2: The Worst-Case Scenario 

Traffickers torment victims by instilling false fears over worst-case scenarios. They tell victims that they’ll be thrown out and left homeless if they seek help or try to escape. Or, worse yet, they might get arrested and thrown in jail—and if that happens, how will they ever build a new life in this country? The worst-case scenario is a particularly effective tactic because the police and criminal justice system are perceived to be corrupt in many of the victims’ home town/ countries. Being put in jail may be a victim’s worst nightmare and will be avoided at all cost. An arrest, incarceration or being labeled as a criminal would also bring a great sense of shame and embarrassment to victims’ families. Traffickers use this knowledge to their advantage and threaten to spread rumors of prostitution or criminal activity in their communities back home if they refuse to obey orders.

3: Distrust of Others

Traffickers tell victims that most people—even health care providers—will report undocumented migrants, resulting in arrest. To ensure that victims don’t speak out to health care providers, traffickers will often accompany victims to their clinic appointments, posing as family members and claiming that they need to be present in order to translate. Since many traffickers are from the same country as the victim, this practice may not raise suspicion at the clinic.

4: Keeping a Close Watch on Victims

Traffickers will often live near their victims, regularly dropping by unannounced. Traffickers may constantly remind victims that they are always being watched, even by their co-workers. Many victims even live and work within the same confines as their abusers, leaving victims with little or no time alone. Victims may be kept isolated from others, further creating a sense of dependency upon the traffickers.

5: Avoiding Physical Abuse 

While a lack of physical abuse may seem positive, traffickers often make a concerted effort to avoid physical abuse and keep their criminal activity under the radar. If victims are seen by a health care provider and have obvious signs of recent physical abuse, the provider is required by law to call the police, which could expose the trafficker. Traffickers often take great measures to ensure that victims display no physical signs of abuse, choosing to torment the victim psychologically instead to help ensure that they don’t get caught. Because many health care providers may not be familiar with other warning signs of human trafficking, this tactic makes identifying victims within a health care setting even more challenging.

6: Threats to Call the Police

Most human trafficking victims are in coercive or abusive situations from which escape may be difficult and dangerous. Traffickers know that victims may be terrified of being arrested, and they use this to their advantage by repeatedly assuring victims that the police will not be on their side if they expose their traffickers. Additionally, traffickers often make threats that if a victim tries to run away or expose their operation, they will call the police and claim that the victim stole from them or committed some sort of crime. Since the trafficker, unlike the victim, often speaks the native language and legally resides in the region, they insist that no one would believe the victim’s story over theirs.

Tactic 7: A Hopeful Timeframe

Lastly, traffickers keep victims silent by offering them a glimmer of hope. For example, traffickers might offer victims a set timeframe—say, 10 or 15 months —of servitude. With an end in sight, some victims may decide to stay, focusing on just surviving day to day until the promised timeframe is up. In many cultures, endurance is seen as a positive characteristic, especially among women. This belief can translate into women tolerating harsh, abusive situations.

Traffickers, in short, are experts in psychological manipulation, which is why many victims don’t seek help—even if the opportunity may arise. Unfortunately, it appears that these tactics are commonly used by human traffickers to manipulate, defraud and exploit victims to keep them enslaved through dependency, coercion and fear. By understanding these tactics and how they may affect victims, we can become better prepared to create more effective ways to properly identify victims and assist them in accessing the services that they need to heal.