Dr. Rafael Salcedo, known for his advocacy and comprehensive treatment program for the young victims of human sex trafficking, has been named the 2017 Distinguished Psychologist by the Louisiana Psychological Association. The award was announced last month at the association’s annual conference held in New Orleans.
Dr. Salcedo was honored for his excellence in psychological practice and his dedication to “saving the minds, bodies and souls of little girls,” from the devastation of human traffickers.
Salcedo is a licensed Clinical Psychologist with subspecialties in the area of forensic and neuropsychology, providing services for issues such as competency to stand trial, sanity at the time of crime, and other legal issues. He consults to the court system in Orleans, Jefferson, Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes, to the Office of Community Services, and has worked with the Department of Children and Family Services for the last 25 years, conducting evaluations of children who are in need of supervision/care.
Dr. Salcedo also chairs the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) Committee for Community Psychology & Psychology in the Public Interest.
In 2012, after becoming aware of the depth and tragedy surrounding child sex trafficking, Rafael and wife Beth, a licensed speech-language pathologist, founded the non-profit, advocacy group, the Louisiana Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
The Coalition is a faith-based 501(c)3 nonprofit aiming to alleviate human trafficking in Louisiana through community and government agency awareness, and organization partnerships.
Recognizing the extreme need for genuine, comprehensive treatment for the young victims the couple founded the “Free Indeed Home,” named from John 8:36, “Whom the Son has set free is free indeed.”
Dr. Salcedo volunteers his time and serves as Executive Director and Clinical Coordinator of the Home, the only licensed, therapeutic group home in the state for helping teen girls escape the physical and psychological bonds of sex-trafficking.
The Free Indeed Home is the rescue and restore extension of the Coalition’s efforts. Because of the need for intensive therapy to break the traumatic bonds created by the abuse of the trafficker.
Dr. Salcedo and Beth Salcedo are experts in Complex PTSD, which many, even many in the mental health field, do not fully understand, Salcedo said.
They recently presented an invited address at the Convention of the Louisiana Psychological Association,“ Diagnosing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Other Adolescent Psychiatric Disorders Commonly Encountered in Victims of Sex Trafficking.”
They have also presented at the Summer Symposium, an event presented by Dr. John Simoneaux and Professional Training Resources.
In Complex PTSD, Dr. Salcedo explained, the pathology is similar to the Stockholm Syndrome. “Complex trauma bonding is an entity in itself,” he said. “At the heart of complex PTSD is the phenomenon of trauma bonding.” So, while there is complexity in symptoms, the challenge for treatment is the victim’s attachment to the individual who caused the trauma, he explained.
In a previous interview, Dr. Salcedo said that the Free Indeed Home is a unique setting, for a variety of reasons. The girls’ trauma is very different from typical PTSD. For most forms of PTSD the issues are avoidance of the emotions surrounding the trauma and generalization of symptoms.
“The differences between this type of Complex PTSD and the typical PTSD are huge,” he said. “The victim identifies with and establishes a bond with their tormentor. The girls want to go back to the life. That is why the home is isolated and not in the center of New Orleans. It is the ideal situation if they run, which they do.” He said that 30 percent try and run and staff are not allowed to force them to stay. “All we can do is follow them,” he explained.
This is why the Home located in a beautiful rural and remote setting with large acreage. This helps in treatment when a girl tries to go back to the pimp.
“Most importantly,” Dr. Salcedo said,” it is a safe house. The pimps try and get them back because they are a source of income. They are a reusable commodity,” he said. Unlike with drugs, where the commodity is used up, the girls can produce income over and over, he explained. And that is why there is always the threat of the pimps reacquiring the girls, and how intensive the work can be.
Child sex trafficking is a subset of human trafficking, considered to be the second fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Drug trafficking is first. Current estimates are that 100,000 children in the United States are sex trafficked each year, sold into prostitution, and used for pornography and other commercial sexual acts. The Baton Rouge and New Orleans metropolitan area is one of the top 10 areas in the U.S. for human trafficking.
Dr. Salcedo is a graduate of the Clinical Psychology program at Louisiana State University, having obtained his Doctorate in 1983. He resides in St.Tammany Parish, has been married 27 years, and has three grown children currently in college.