Approximately 20% of the survivors we work with at the Helen Bamber Foundation have suffered human trafficking and modern slavery. Through working with and supporting these survivors, we have developed an expert understanding of the complex mental health consequences of human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking experience physical, psychological and sexual violence that results in high rates of mental health problems, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although many acknowledge that the experience of human trafficking results in higher than normal rates of metal health problems, there exists little evidence on suitable treatment (please see Addressing Mental Health Needs in Survivors of Modern Slavery).
During 2016, HBF’s Medical Director and Head of Therapies (Professor Katona and Dr Robjant) alongside Jackie Roberts of Dukes Street Practice completed a research study into the efficacy Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) for treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst female survivors of human trafficking. NET is a trauma focused therapy for individuals who have PTSD following multiple traumatic events that aims to embed traumatic experiences within autobiographical context of a person’s life.
The research, published today in Frontiers in Psychiatry (a peer-reviewed, open access journal which aims to use translational approaches to improve therapeutic options for mental illness and consequently to improve patient treatment outcomes) demonstrates that Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) is a feasible treatment for PTSD within this population. After completing 11-19 NET sessions, clients demonstrated a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms and emotional distress, suggesting that NET is an acceptable treatment for victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
The Helen Bamber Foundation is committed to evidence-based practice. We are excited to have been able to provide and disseminate this evidence on effective treatment for victims of trafficking, and hope to contribute further to the evaluation of treatments for survivors of trafficking and other forms of extreme human cruelty.