Monthly Archives: September 2014

Long Term Mental Health Care for Victims of Human Trafficking

Long term mental health care for victims of human trafficking
By Ashley R. Donaldson, MA, LPC-CR

Counselors, advocates, law enforcement, and other helpers connected with victims of sex crimes such as trafficking are working with a delicate population, one that requires swift yet careful attention. While we work to positively influence many, many sectors which impact the problem of sex trafficking such as public policy and law, for example, we need to be ever-mindful of the victims to whom we are committed. Most victims are truly lost in every sense of that word and are in desperate need of loving, trustworthy help for their mere survival as well as for their mental and emotional recovery and health. Not only do we need to be mindful of the victims of these unspeakable crimes, but we also must be mindful of the criminals as they seek to maintain control and secrecy within their inner circles.

In consideration of the extent of delicacy to which we must tread, take a look at what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says about the nature of the impact of abuse in children:

The brain’s development can literally be altered by this type of toxic stress, resulting in negative impacts on the child’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social growth. The specific effects of maltreatment may depend on such factors as the age of the baby or child at the time of the abuse or neglect, whether the maltreatment was a one-time incident or chronic, the identity of the abuser (e.g., parent or other adult), whether the child had a dependable nurturing individual in his or her life, the type and severity of the abuse, the intervention, and how long the maltreatment lasted.*

Are not many adult victims of sex trafficking first victims of abuse and neglect during early childhood? Commonly, victims of this type of crime have previously been subjected to abuse and neglect during childhood, therefore becoming mentally and emotionally unhealthy adults, and thus highly susceptible to further abuse during adulthood.

Children who have been abused or neglected may not be functioning at their chronological age in terms of their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive skills. They may also be displaying unusual and/or difficult coping behaviors. For example, abused or neglected children may: Be unable to control their emotions and have frequent outbursts; be quiet and submissive; have unusual eating or sleeping behaviors; attempt to provoke fights or solicit sexual experiences; be socially or emotionally inappropriate for their age; be unresponsive to affection.*

Since adult victims of sex trafficking commonly suffer first as children, we can expect similar, only louder, impairment. For example, just as a child of abuse and neglect might be quiet and submissive, an adult victim of sex trafficking might be abnormally introverted and overly submissive to her (or his) perpetrator. Such symptoms are widely understood as “codependent” (read more at and are commonly associated with, first, poor childhood upbringing including abuse and neglect, and then unsupportive and abusive relationships during adulthood. An additional common concern associated with mental, emotional, and sexual abuse is certainly anxiety (read more at, and such mental health concerns can be safely addressed in psychotherapy and with short term medication therapy, if deemed necessary.

In general, children who have been abused or neglected need nurturance, stability, predictability, understanding, and support (Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care, 2000). They may need frequent, repeated experiences of these kinds to begin altering their view of the world from one that is uncaring or hostile to one that is caring and supportive. Until that view begins to take hold in a child’s mind, the child may not be able to truly engage in a positive relationship. And the longer a child lived in an abusive or neglectful environment, the harder it will be to convince the child’s brain that the world can change. Consistent nurturing from caregivers who receive training and support may offer the best hope for the children who need it most.*

Likewise, adults who have suffered from long-term abuse require similar care. So whatever sort of helper you are, whether a counselor, an advocate, law enforcement or other, be mindful of the delicacy of our work as these individuals truly need careful, trustworthy attention.


Ashley Donaldson, Mental Healthcare for victims of human trafficking

Ashley Donaldson



By Ashley R. Donaldson, MA, LPC-CR, a licensed therapist in the state of Ohio who works with children, adolescents, and adults to overcome varying mental health concerns. Ashley R. Donaldson, MA, LPC-CR is available for life coaching, too, via telephone and Skype. Visit Ashley R. Donaldson’s, MA, LPC-CR blog at



Is Football More Valuable than Women?

Ray Rice, NFL scandal

photo /Wikipedia


In the wake of 2 recent NFL scandals, I am left asking how in 2014 can this still be such a discussion? The NFL has been a supporter for Breast Cancer Awareness- I remember all the pink on the field and all the manly men speaking about breast cancer. I see the league wanting more women to be fans and commercials about players giving back to the community.  Commercials that reach your heart-strings  that symbolize children, family, helping others in need, at risk children being nurtured by father figures. The Dallas Cowboys raising #1.8 billion for the Salvation Army.

On the surface one would say I am so proud that the United States as a society gives the National Football League such a high respected position of near god like status.  You would want to believe that this is a good thing and that so many people who fill stadiums, buy tickets, support sponsors, play fantasy football and buy memorabilia must be supporting a something that benefits society in ways we as individuals cannot even begin to imagine.

As with the scandal in the Catholic Church years ago, we all knew- and we all know now-

This dark side of professional football was outed in 1979 in the film based on a book both titled North Dallas Forty by Pete Gent. He wrote about his experiences in the late 60s. Here it is in the year 2014 and still many things are the same. Dallas Cowboy owner, Jerry Jones is currently involved in a scandal surrounding the allegations of sexual assault from an exotic dancer (descriptions of photos imply some exotic contact) and his attorneys are using a statute of limitations defense . I guess that’s easier than the truth defense.  Jones, 71, is married with three adult children and is proud to raise money for the Salvation Army, a faith-based Christain non- profit organization dedicated to helping prostituted victims of trafficking. Can we say guilt money?

  • Why should we care that a man, father, husband and owner of THE major NFL team is in  a scandal with an exotic dancer .
  • Why should be care that a player who beat his then girlfriend on video was given a pass by the league Commissioner until the video was “leaked?” It’s alleged that the Commissioner knew of the video, could it be  attempted, alleged cover up?
  • Why would he need the second video?
  • Why was a 2 game suspension enough punishment for what in criminal law would be an assault?
  • Should he be held less accountable because she loved him, seems that he should be more accountable.
  • What would he do to a stranger, or someone who didn’t love him?

Do we live in a society that allows and supports women being treated as objects- well let’s put it to a test?

What if this exotic dancer  would have beaten Jones in an elevator on film? Would she get a 2 dance suspension?

What if the girlfriend, now wife of Ray Rice, would have been caught in photos with another man’s hands on her breasts, and then accused of assault? Maybe she could have injured Rice and caused him to be unable to play? Maybe she might have given him a concussion? Oh wait, he could still play! Would she be celebrated? Would she lose anything, especially if she were a public figure, maybe running for office or part of a large organization? Would he be blamed or feel guilty about making her do that to him? Why didn’t he just leave?

One can only imagine, in fact, it’s hard to even imagine the reverse because neither these women, nor Jones’ wife, would be held in such a high status .In our current society would an exotic dancer’s fate be known? Would the wife of an executive who had three children with him be protected due to his bad behavior? Would a new wife have the value to society that Rice does? Will their future children witness violence?

Will the Salvation Army continue its relationship with Jones if it is found that he frequents commercial sex? Or will they give up the money raised to help trafficked victims which most commercial sex involves?

Who will take up for what is right and not what is convenient?

I dare say I am so blessed to know and have met Terry Crews, author of MANHOOD. He has, and I hypothesize he may make more enemies than friends from his comments-   Click here for commentsManhood by Terry Crews

However, right on Terry! It is up to men! We are a culture that is behind in our respect for each other especially regarding sex, violence and gender. No child should witness what we saw in the elevator, no woman should be let down in the judicial system. Anyone who could stop this prosecutor, employer, sponsors, friends, family, peer organizations should use their power to do so.  No man should purchase a woman at a strip club, in person, or online. This must stop! No man, no matter how mad, should hit.  We need to ask “why he hits?” not “why does she stay?”

We need to make sure men who hit women and buy sex know that those activities are often linked. You cannot respect your spouse or significant other while buying sex from others. Violence and sex are  linked and the culture of porn, prostitution and stripping are adding fuel to this fire in a way that grows exponentially.

Do the people who want a good football season care about Jones’ accuser and Rice’s victim? Goodall’s alleged cover for Rice? Or, do they want their football? Is there any organization too big to fail?  Ask the Romans.

You know now, and remember, we knew!

Let’s not give a season pass to the NFL, Rice or Jones on these issues,  let’s use this to each what real manhood means in the United States in 2014.

Is Football More Valuable than Women?

Human Trafficking: Why should we care?

The current discussion about prostitution in the Dominican Republic and a U.S. Elected official brings into light the focus of legal prostitution, child prostitutes, and a convergence of power and money with extreme poverty and marginalization on a global scale.

If prostitution is legal in the DR, should elected officials and their donors benefit? Is there ever an equitable way that a business transaction for sex can be executed? A young girl (by reports 16-18 years old) transacting for sex with in an impoverished country by negotiating a business transaction with an American whose power exceeds hers just by status and social position? It is a fairy tale to entertain such a social myth. If reports are true she did not even get the amount negotiated for and will most likely be punished for returning without the money promised.

Examples of Child Prostitution

A similar example is with the Eliot Spitzer case- a governor of New York and a young woman who had been a runaway, even though she was an adult at the time, it is reported that she was a runaway just a few years before at age 17. Then, there is the more recent case of former NFL player Lawrence Taylor who admitted to procuring a 16-year-old for sex. He was given the extremely generous opportunity to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and even prevailed when the victim filed a civil suit against him. Exactly in what area of law is “I thought she was an adult” a defense? A 40 something year old man should not fail that test.

What is wrong with us? Does capitalism mean that anything is for sale and that we pray to the money god? Perhaps so in Houston- A 13-year-old was arrested for prostitution and prosecuted all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. Also, the Houston Mayor responded to a request from a non-profit asking her to focus on arresting buyers of child sex trafficked victims. The mayor’s response was that instead of arresting buyers, we should focus on the landlords who are renting to the traffickers. Yet, since this letter written on Dec 11, 2011 there has been a settlement with a strip club, their attorneys are pleased with the settlement. Certainly not much protection for sex trafficked children in Houston.

If someone pays for sex with a child or enslaved person, is it then not rape? Is prostitution not illegal in almost every county in the US? I read the laws and they are very clear, however, when reviewing legal outcomes and national discourse I do not see the culture matching the law, I most often see the victims arrested, blamed, punished and prosecuted; and the traffickers, buyers, and financial beneficiaries protected, settled with, not investigated and even supported by local government officials. Should we not react with the same zeal we did to  the Sandy Hook incident? Should we not run to aid, protect, and prevent more harm to the victims/children and their families?

Growth of Human Trafficking

This crime is growing so fast that the traffickers are now targeting non marginalised victims – U.S. citizens aged 13-26 seem to be increasing. These kids are straight A students, achievers, surrounded by good social ties. WAKE UP! These are not just titillating cases of indiscretion, this is a war on children, on families, and on society, locally and globally.We need to treat each of these cases as the most serious and not find ways to blame the victim or excuse the purchaser. I was recently in a meeting with a U.S. county attorney – when we discussed prosecuting the buyers he actually said “ that would ruin their lives and they most likely do not have a criminal record.” I was shocked— YES when you buy sex it is a criminal act in all but 11 counties in the U.S. – when you buy sex from children it is always criminal.  In Texas, sexual assault of a child can get you 99 years. (unless you pay for it- then the law is ignored and you get to go home to your wife and kids.)PLEASE let’s put away the fairy tale myths and address this as adults-  who are protecting children- all the children, no matter whose they are. Without buyers, the traffickers will move on to other crimes.  The buyers are the problem, they are criminal actors and they are hurting many.


 Human Trafficking: Why should we care?

Understanding the Grooming Process Part 2

Part I of the series: Understanding the Grooming Process: What do bright college students have to worry about? 

Traffickers use many tactics to keep the victim under control. They use a spectrum of crimes to surround the victim in a climate of fear and distortion. The traffickers also use the judicial system to groom the environment to protect themselves. Many traffickers purposely get the victims arrested so as to empower themselves and further cause the victim to be isolated and dependent. All too often the judicial system is a willing participant.A common example is the labor contractor or pimp who uses the threat of law enforcement when their victims start complaining. The trafficker will call Immigration and Customs Enforcement and report the illegal immigrant who is then arrested and deported. Problem solved for the trafficker and money in the bank for the employer who does not want to be bothered by paying for labor. The pimp may actually want the victim to get arrested as then he will be her ‘savior’ as he bails her out of jail (with the money she earned). He will then use this to further make her feel responsible for “costing him money” both for the bail and for the time she was not producing. This also prepares her for later when they all get caught she will do the time for him and protect him as all costs. He has then groomed her and the environment around her to make sure he walks and she takes the full punishment.

In the book The Art of Seduction, author Robert Greene has analyzed seducers over the centuries. In his list of tactics of the seduction process he outlines many of the tactics used by traffickers on the victims.

A few examples are:

  • Choose the right victims– the right victims are the ones you can fill a void- a completely contented person is almost impossible to seduce.
  •  Create a false sense of security– begin at an indirect approach, an angle. The victims may be introduced to the trafficker by a friend or trusted family member.
  • Send Mixed Signals this will both fascinate and confuse. For traffickers this is a combination of being nice with abuse- of being attentive and tender with being aloof and cruel. This is the most powerful part of the coercion used on the victims.
  • Isolate the victim– Isolating them makes them weak and vulnerable to the trafficker’s influence. For the trafficked victims the isolation of a foreign country, language, culture even food is one of the traffickers best tools. For US citizen victims the traffickers will drive a wedge between family and friends of the victim. They will create discord that was not really there. This will have the victim off-center and distrustful of the only people who could help her. Confused with no outside support they are easily led astray and controlled.
  •  Mix pleasure with pain. According to Greene, the greatest mistake in seduction is to be too nice. Inflicting some pain to make the victim feel guilty and insecure. Then a return to kindness will bring them to their knees. With victims of trafficking this cycle repeats over and over. In one interview a victim said he beat me with a wire stick (a pimp stick) “I was bruised and bleeding and I did deserve it because I had not made enough money for him. Then he gently brushed my hair from my face and wiped my tears. He really cared for me.”

Continued in part 3- What will happen to the target once “The Game” begins–

Understanding the Grooming Process: Part 1



In the past 2 years, I have seen a sharp increase in the number of U.S. Citizen college students targeted

by human trafficking. I also hear from victims that sex traffickers are lurking around high school and

middle school campuses. After the many campus shootings and the other dangers parents warn their

children about before sending them away from home for the first time it is unlikely that most parents

are discussing the tactics of “romeo pimps” with the daughters who have achieved academic success.

I have worked with more and more families as the hopes and dreams for their daughters are crushed –

the parents have been blindsided by an evil they may never have known existed.

The tactics used are that the recruiter will find a target, he will then create some sort of friendship or

romantic connection.

During this early grooming period he will learn all he can about the victim and she will tell him EVERYTHING. Her hopes, dreams, fears disappointments, every disagreement with her friends, parents teachers, etc.

While she believes he is listening to her out of affection, he is listening for ammunition to carry out his plan.

He will begin to introduce her to his shadowy life and it will appear alluring and a bit mystical- especially to a naïve academic who has spent most of her time preparing for college.

He will learn what she thinks about sex, religion, her parents, grandparents, her embarrassing moments and her highest achievements.

This he will then use to distance and isolate her from her life and into his.

To be continued-

Understanding the Grooming Process: Part 1