Children may not only be deprived of their liberty and right to be free from exploitation and abuse, but also from health care and education. Those who have been trafficked may not show obvious signs of distress, but the short and long-term impact of exploitation cannot be underestimated. The creation of a false identity, together with the loss of family and community, may seriously undermine their self-worth and confidence.

There are various physical, emotional and psychological abuses that the child may have suffered and continue to experience. These include but are not limited to:

  • Physical abuse and physical disorders, such as skin diseases, headaches, backaches and/or general pains
  • Drug and alcohol addiction (particularly if the child has been given these in order to subdue them)
  • Disorientation and isolation, loss of trust, low self-esteem, depression and/or suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Psychological distress/sense of powerlessness
  • Dependent relationships with abusers
  • Loss of ability to concentrate and/or memory loss
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety attacks, stress and/or nervous breakdowns
  • Anti-social behaviour, anger and/or fear of authorities
  • Sexual abuse, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and/or damage to reproductive health
  • Malnutrition, physical and/or sensory deprivation

The child may require immediate medical attention when discovered as commonly victims are deprived of routine and even emergency medical treatment by their traffickers. In the majority of cases, children will require mental health support, even if they do not initially wish to engage with health services.

Experiences of children who have been trafficked

  • “I will never be the same again…”
  • “I was hit in the head by my trafficker and I have problems remembering things from yesterday”
  • “My inner world has changed. The things around me have a different colour; everything seems to be dark grey…”
  • “Sometimes when I am in the street I feel that everyone is looking at me and I want to shout. I’m tired of being afraid…”
  • “What happened to me will always stay with me. Sometimes I still have nightmares”