Human trafficking is a crime and a human rights violation that involves various and simultaneous traumatic events (sexual and physical violence, coercion). Yet, it is unknown how the patterning of violence and coercion affects the mental health of female and male trafficking survivors.
We conducted a cross-sectional study using a sample of 1015 female and male survivors of trafficking who received post-trafficking assistance services in Cambodia, Thailand or Vietnam. We assessed symptoms of anxiety and depression with the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire. Violence was measured with questions from the World Health Organization International Study on Women's Health. Latent class analysis (LCA) was used to identify distinct patterns of violence and coercion in females and males. Novel multi-step mixture modelling techniques were employed to assess the association of the emergent classes with anxiety, depression and PTSD in females and males.
LCA identified two distinct classes of violence and coercion experiences in females (class I: severe sexual and physical violence and coercion (20%); class II: sexual violence and coercion (80%)) and males (class I: severe physical violence and coercion (41%); class II: personal coercion (59%)). Females in class I had a two-fold increase in the odds of anxiety (OR = 2.10; 95% CI: 1.57-2.81) and PTSD (OR = 2.07; 95% CI: 1.03-4.17) compared with females in class II, but differences in the prevalence of anxiety, depression and PTSD were not significant when comparing males in class I to class II.
Specific patterns of violence and coercion provide a more in-depth understanding of the role of gender in the experience of violence and coercion and its association with mental health in survivors of trafficking. This information could be useful to target comprehensive mental health services for female and male trafficking survivors.