Depression, anxiety and hostility are symptoms frequently detected among torture victims and victims of other traumatic events and were also identified as prominent psychological reactions in an earlier study on the health of trafficked women.
Again, in the study on women who were assisted in Europe, their levels of mental ill Ealth were found to be much higher than those in a general female population. While in the care of NGOs, women’s symptom levels did decrease—but this decrease happened very slowly and not very much. Even after three months of care, women’s reported depression levels were still at the level of the top 10 per cent of the most depressed women in an average female population. Anxiety and hostility levels were not quite as high, but still well above the average. This is likely to inhibit trafficking victims from re-engaging in normal daily activities, such as caring for family, employment, or education.
Real danger may remain after a woman is removed from a trafficking situation; removal in itself will not necessarily reduce levels of well-founded and symptomatic anxiety.
A victim’s expression of hostility may be surprising for some investigators, who are more likely to expect victims to appear broken, tearful and/or fearful. Yet, hostility is a welldocumented response to trauma. It will not be uncommon for a victim to be “annoyed or easily irritated”, “easily upset” and “irritated by everything”, have “temper outbursts”. Again, while these feelings may subside, they are likely to ebb and re-emerge depending on the stresses the victim faces.
It is not uncommon for victims who have been aggressive to be regretful, baffled, and embarrassed by their own behaviour. Women in the study in Europe described their irritability and related acts of aggression, such as punching walls, throwing items and hitting others.