The Healing Process for Survivors of Sex Trafficking

During my time as a NCOSE intern, I have heard many stories about survivors of sex trafficking. I thought to myself how strong they must be to relive such a traumatic experience while fighting for justice and/or being an advocate for other survivors. Imagine being retraumatized while trying to heal from the trauma. That takes a lot of strength. So that is when I became intrigued about the healing process for survivors of sex trafficking.  

While interviewing with Teresa J. Helm, who is the Survivors Services Coordinator at NCOSE, she mentioned that “survivors of sex trafficking are some of the most harmed individuals, yet they still have the ability to be the most passionate individuals.” She also mentioned how working with survivors has been an inspiration for her. Healing from victimization and becoming a survivor of such a traumatizing experience is inspiring and influential.  

What type of trauma stems from sex trafficking?

One 2010 study explored the relationship between traumatic events experiences by sex trafficked women/girls and their mental health. This study found that injuries and sexual violence experienced during sex trafficking was associated with higher levels of PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Further, more time spent in sex trafficking was associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety. Some survivors deal with physical trauma as well. According to a 2019 Forbes article, sex trafficking survivors have repeated exposure to traumatic events, and this can have a tremendous impact on their physical health. Just imagine the extensive emotional and physical healing survivors of sex trafficking need to go through.

What does the healing process look like for sex trafficking survivors?

“Healing is a process, not a destination.”  

This is what Teresa J. Helm said during our interview. So, what does that process look like?  

It is ongoing and full of ups and downs. There can be a day a survivor feels strong and may feel like they regained their power, then the next day they feel the total opposite. That doesn’t mean a survivor is not progressing in their healing. That’s simply what healing from trauma looks like. It takes strength to continually choose to take actions to pursue healing, and to let it be a work-in-progress.

A note for the Survivors reading this

Healing is an art. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes patience, and it takes love. As a survivor, shame, guilt, and even the abuse may stop you from loving yourself. But everyday, choose to love on you. Healing from trauma caused by sex trafficking doesn’t mean forgetting about the damage, it just means the damage no longer has a control over your life.  


If you or someone you know is a survivor in need of healing, we encourage you to consult the following resources.

If you may be interested in pursuing a lawsuit against the entities that profited from and/or enabled your exploitation, we encourage you to contact the NCOSE Law Center to discuss your options.  

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



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