Trafficking within the Family System: Considerations for Mental Health Professionals


Kristy Eldredge, EdD, LPC, ACS, NCC; Jesaira Glover, MA; Mallorie Hardesty & Michelle Wright | September 20 | 10:15-11:15 AM

Topic: Direct Service | Knowledge Level: Beginner, Intermediate

With the increase of public policy, media attention, and legislation, the issue of human trafficking has become more widely known to society and mental health clinicians, alike (Logan, Walker, & Hunt, 2009). However, one area that has not received significant attention is the impact on the survivor when the trafficking is perpetrated by the family-of-origin. Just as human trafficking has historically, yet inaccurately, been viewed as an international problem, so, too, has it been viewed as an issue perpetrated by criminals outside of the family (e.g. pimps, gangs, organized criminal groups). The dynamics inherent in familial relationships complicate the survivor’s ability to reveal the abuse or get away from the trafficking environment. In this workshop, the presenters will explore common features of human trafficking and discuss how these features differ when the trafficking is perpetrating by a family system. Given the complicating factors inherent in intra-familial trafficking, the presenters will present clinical considerations necessary for effective mental health counseling with a client who has been trafficked by their own family members. These factors include but are not limited to: trauma bonds that increase concealment of the abuse (Middleton, Sachs, & Dorahy, 2017), betrayal trauma (Birrel & Freyd, 2006), the lack of a safe family to return to, implications for children born from the trafficking (Surtees, 2017), and the likelihood of continuous threats or danger if the survivor leaves the family system.

Presentation Objectives:

·    Identify how symptoms of complex trauma may manifest within the context of the trafficking family system.

·    Differentiate the common features of intra-familial human trafficking from non-familial human trafficking.

·    Distinguish the unique challenges faced by clients and clinicians when working with intra-familial human trafficking.

About the Presenters