Traffickers are known as master manipulators. Their aim is always to control their victim. They will employ different strategies but the goal is always the same; control. Their goal is to trap and keep the victim in the trafficking situation for as long as they can. They profit from exploiting the victim therefore the longer the situation lasts the better for them.
HAART has seen these different methods used by traffickers for control over the years with each case that we handle. The Libya case presented us with an opportunity to look at the different ways that traffickers control their victim when we examined each case. One of the cases that stood out were cases of an agency that used witchcraft to control their victims. This is something that we had only heard happening in West Africa.
The victims were taken through a witchcraft ritual before they travelled. They vowed to never speak of what happened and not to return to Kenya until they complete their contracts. Most of the contracts for domestic workers going to these countries is two years. This agency claimed that if the women did not complete their contract, there would be repercussions for them. The woman told us that their blood was drawn from them and a sacrifice made. They only spoke about this after they watched a video called ‘A Dangerous Journey’ (see below) that we showed them from Animage Ltd a British production company that showed traffickers using this tactic. In the video the victims go through the procedure and vow to stay silent. Our victims were also asked the same but on top of that, they had to vow to complete their contract or there would be repercussions.
Traffickers understand what the silence of the victim means. Silence means that they will stay in a state of exploitation for a longer period. Silence also means that their stories are never heard so they can never seek help. In addition, it means that people will never know about trafficking. It is painful to watch how much this form of control affects its victims. Despite rescuing the women and bringing them back home most of them anticipate that something bad will happen soon. They are certain that the witchcraft has effects that we cannot see.
When it comes to rehabilitation, it is important to ensure that we try our best to reintegrate the victims. It is impossible for them to move on with their lives if they think that somebody else is in control of the things that happen to them. We have to find a way to break this control and traditional therapy might not be the answer. We are hoping that by engaging them in spiritual counselling they will be able to believe that the shackles that these traffickers have on them will break.
Witchcraft has the ability to paralyze its victims and the traffickers do not have to use a lot of effort. The rituals put invisible chains on the minds of its victims and breaking these chains is not easy. Traffickers that use this method know that their victims will stay obedient. They know that they have made slaves that will serve them until they are willing to let go of them. It is a mind game for them and the victims are just pawns. However, the victim is not aware of these games and even as we rehabilitate them we have to figure out what will work for them.
By Sophie Otiende