During socialite Ghislaine Maxwell’s sentencing on sex trafficking charges on June 28, adult survivors spoke out in anguish as they described the long-lasting effects of their years as trafficked teens and young women. The New York Times said Sarah Ransome fought back tears as she described the suffering doled out by Maxwell and the late Jeffrey Epstein, saying she “became nothing more than a ‘sex toy.’” Ransome told the court of suicide attempts, alcoholism recovery and relapses, nightmares, anxiety, flashbacks and difficulty maintaining long-term relationships, according to the Insider.
As a psychologist who works individually with victims of trafficking, Northeastern University criminology professor Carlos Cuevas is familiar with individual symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and mental distress. What has been lacking is a large research study of the mental and physical health implications of sex trafficking on adolescent victims, he says. Cuevas and fellow Northeastern criminology professor Amy Farrell have set out to rectify that situation by surveying 500 adolescent victims of trafficking about their physical and mental health as well as the health services that they use.
“We’re recruiting [participants] from agencies across the country that work with trafficking survivors,” Cuevas says, including agencies in Boston. “We just don’t have much information about the physical health impact of having been a trafficking victim.”