How do exploited women see their identity in relation to their experience of being abused? Recognizing women in the sex trade as victims of exploitation can be difficult because of the fear in showing their identity in order to avoid punishment or even death. Some women do not recognize themselves as victims. It becomes an identity problem of “who am I?”

Sex trafficking victims are also assumed to be prostitutes and there are many myths around it. They are often dehumanized, experiencing the stigma of being “disposable”. When young girls and women entered the world of sex trade, they did not have a range of choices and, according to statistics, most of them did not even choose voluntarily. Instead of agreeing with the sex industry, these women submitted to the limited options available to them in order to survive.

The question arises: How can we fight the hideous issue of sex exploitation? Well, the demand starts with consumers. Penalizing the purchase of “sexual services” helps the victims to seek for help. Addressing the demand can deconstruct the message that buying women for sex is acceptable. Without demand, there would be no supply.

In addition to intervention, prevention is crucial in combating the human trafficking problem. For instance, more research studies that analyse and understand better the scope of the problem as well as more awareness raising campaigns. This last one is a very important preventive measure to help victims to be more conscious and less likely to be tricked by perpetrators.

Besides getting the society more involved and getting more informed and active citizens, it is also fundamental to invest in long-term recovery programs. This will help rebuilding, healing and restoring from the damage that a life of exploitation can cause. It does take time and that is why it is necessary to maximize the capacity to exit safely and effectively from the oppressing situation. A long-term approach gives the opportunity to engage with services which can provide support to improve a person’s belief in order to be capable to achieve lasting changes in their lifestyles. Achievable goals are effective to help to move forward. The Community House Damaris provides this; it provides a program, care and services for up to seven years.