The cycle of exploitation

Traffickers know shifting between acting caring and threatening with their victims is an effective way to maintain psychological control. It ensures the victims will feel both loyal and intimidated.

The trafficker imposes lots of rules on the girls. They’re not allowed to eat or sleep without his permission. They’re not allowed to go out on their own and even if they are, he is watching their every move.

Key stages of the cycle

The mindset of a victim

The cycle of exploitation paralyzes victims with fear so they believe they can't survive on their own without the trafficker. Based on our work with survivors, some common experiences emerge during and throughout the cycle of exploitation including:

  • Victims form a strong attachment to the trafficker, based on a trauma bond
  • They become completely reliant on the trafficker
  • Their life is controlled
  • They may not believe they're a victim
  • They feel shame and fear they may not be believed by others
  • They fear the trafficker may disclose what they've done
  • They struggle to understand how they would adjust to life outside of trafficking
  • They may fear that the trafficker will hurt them or their families

So I thought, you know I can do it on my own, I can get out, and each time was a fail. 1

  1. Covenant House Toronto, & Ipsos Public Affairs. (2018). A National Sex Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Study