12 Days of Social Justice: Day 6

Day 6: Trafficking & Trauma 


  • Survivors of trafficking often experience complex trauma that is akin to combining domestic violence, sexual assault/abuse, rape, kidnapping/captivity, physical abuse, and brainwashing. Each of these is individually traumatic, but when combined and interwoven together it creates something called “complex trauma” which can have profound effects on one’s life. Survivors must be cared for in a holistic, person-first manner. Their physical, survival needs (shelter/housing, food, clothing, healthcare) must be met before they can be in a place to receive therapy. To paint a picture of what survivors are dealing with Judith Herman, an expert on trauma, states in her book Trauma and Recovery (1997):
    • “People subjected to prolonged, repeated trauma develop an insidious progressive form of post-traumatic stress disorder that invades and erodes the personality. While the victim of a single acute trauma may feel after the event that she is “not herself,” the victim of chronic trauma may feel herself to be changed irrevocably, or she may lose the sense that she has any self at all. The worst fear of any traumatized person is that the moment of horror will recur, and this fear is realized in victims of chronic abuse. Not surprisingly, the repetition of trauma amplifies all the hyper-arousal symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Chronically traumatized people are continually hypervigilant, anxious, and agitated. The psychiatrist Elaine Hilberman describes the state of constant dread experienced by battered women: ‘Events even remotely connected with violence – sirens, thunder, a door slamming – elicited intense fear. There was chronic apprehension of imminent doom, of something terrible always about to happen. Any symbolic or actual sign of potential danger resulted in increased activity, agitation, pacing, screaming and crying. The women remained vigilant, unable to relax or sleep. Nightmares were universal, with undisguised themes of violence and danger.’ Chronically traumatized people no longer have any baseline state of physical calm or comfort. Over time, they perceive their bodies as having turned against them. They begin to complain, not only of insomnia and agitation, but also of numerous types of somatic symptoms. Tension headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, and abdominal, back, or pelvic pain are extremely common.” (page 86)

One phrase that is used to describe trauma is “neurons that fire together wire together,” meaning that this prolonged trauma begins to change the brain – who we are, what we do, everything. This can result in various mental illnesses, substance abuse, self injurious behaviors and suicidal thoughts. Leaving “the life” (an exploitative situation) is one of the first steps in the healing process.

  • Isaiah 61: 1-3 “1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”


  • Do I have any prejudices towards individuals with mental illness?
  • How does God feel about those who have gone through trauma?
  • What are ways that the church can love individuals who have gone through trauma or have a mental illness?


  • Educate yourself on trauma and the effects of trauma
    • Attend training by the amazing Bonnie Martin – hosted by NCC Spring 2015 (details coming soon! – check back on the NCC ASE Facebook page)
    • Check out these books:
      • “Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Herman
      • “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog” by Dr. Bruce Perry (a great look at how trauma touches every part of life – told through various vignettes and case examples)
      • “Girls Like Us” by Rachel Lloyd


  • Pray for God to open your eyes to those around you effected by trauma
  • Pray for change in societal stereotypes about those with mental illness

Pray for opportunities to show love to survivors of trauma (nearly everyone goes through something traumatic in life – it’s part of being human – pray that God would show you those already in your life that you can show love to, as well as new faces)


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