Holistic Care for Survivors of Trafficking

Sep 30, 2019 12:08:30 PM Sarah Rymer

Recently I led a weekend training workshop with a group that does outreach to sex workers in a nearby city. I always prepare to address self-care, boundaries, and other personal growth topics with the groups I’m training.


Caring for survivors of human trafficking requires spending intentional time in nourishing self-care activities and developing self-awareness. These days there is a great interest–even a hunger–for good guidance on self-care. There seems to be a lot of talk about good self-care, but much of what is said isn’t necessarily effective. I equip those who care for survivors to engage self-care deeply through self-reflection exercises and challenging questions for "homework." 

Another training I’ve started is a psychoeducation course for the beneficiaries of a local aftercare assistance program. It’s a low-key format in which we discuss trauma and the body with models and diagrams. We talk about how our bodies and brains are designed, about how trauma impacts us and why. Participants are keen to learn, and they ask good questions!

Understanding these principles helps survivors begin to take back control of their lives and take healing (baby) steps, no longer at the mercy of the trauma and triggers. The picture below is a rendition of me using a model of the brain to talk about the connection between the brain and body and trauma. 

In AugustKW drawing, it was a privilege to present a talk to the University of Maryland Family Medicine Residency program about human trafficking, with a particular emphasis on my perspective in caring for survivors.

In the meantime I’m continuing to work on a handbook on trauma designed for volunteers and staff who have little or no training about mental health issues. I'm also working on a research project among health professionals in Germany.

Although I already know quite a few anti-trafficking organizations in Germany, I need to spend time getting to know their work and their needs. I am taking advantage of every seminar/lecture/event to meet with as many organizations as I can in as many places as possible. Most of these meetings are evolving into future training opportunities. I have met with an advisor to the Bundestag and attended a Germany-wide seminar for street outreach workers and aftercare providers. I continue to meet a wide variety of researchers and care providers. Work throughout Europe continues with my involvement in the European Freedom Network.

This is important foundational work for the future. I am excited about the strategic work for Relentless in Europe, but it is vital to learn and listen first in order to be most effective.

Please check out the Relentless Webinar about the intersection of health and human trafficking to learn more about how to fight human trafficking and about the mental and physical consequences trafficking has on victims. Please leave a note or comment – I’d love to know how the webinar helped you!


About the Author: Dr. Katherine is an IDEAS Associate and founder and director of Relentless. She travels globally as a medical and health consultant to organizations serving abused, trafficked, and exploited people. Katherine also trains healthcare professionals around the world in how to leverage their skills to fight modern-day slavery. Enjoy other blogs by Katherine, such as Trauma-Informed Care: A Personal Look.


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