Letter From The President

Reaching out to Victims of Human Trafficking

Dear ISSTD community,

July 30 is the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, a day that has been set aside to raise awareness about the plight of human trafficking victims. Although the term “trafficking” is used with increasing frequency, it is not always clear what it means. Indeed, the legal definition of trafficking has changed considerably over time and between jurisdictions.

At its core, and in all its forms, trafficking refers to exploitation: the abuse of one human being by another, as a means rather than an end, as an object rather than a subject. And while trafficking is often depicted in movies and television as a child or adult abducted from their home, and sold into slavery, only to be rescued by the hero, ISSTD members know all too well the mundane contexts and everyday realities of human trafficking.

Trafficking and exploitation are words that describe the lives of many people with complex trauma and dissociation. Often enough, that abuse is not ended by the interdiction of an external rescuer but by the perseverance and skills of the survivor. The role of mental health professionals is often to bear witness to the cost of survival and seek to alleviate its burdens.

Is there any group of professionals who understands the many different forms and impacts of trafficking as well as the ISSTD? I doubt it.  The theme of this year’s World Day is “Reach every victim of trafficking, leave no one behind” and I look forward to a day where this slogan is more than an aspiration.