Recognizing and responding to human trafficking in a healthcare context

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recognizing and responding to human trafficking in a healthcare context

Intervention in human trafficking through health care

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This guest blog post comes from Polaris, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting and preventing human trafficking. If a person comes into the ER for a drug overdose, the doctor refers that patient to rehab services. If a person comes in after attempting suicide, the doctor refers them to psychiatric care. We expect our medical staff to identify the underlying causes of our ailments, give us the information we need to make informed decisions about our health, and help us access the treatment and services we need. And we expect healthcare settings to be a safe place to discuss our needs. What if the patient is a victim of human trafficking who experienced physical assault, an occupational injury, or sexual assault, but their trafficker told them that if they said anything to anyone their family would be hurt? Healthcare providers have a crucial role in victim identification and support because they are in a unique position to recognize problems that may not be obvious at first glance.

As an industry that experiences frequent and intimate contact with the general public, healthcare professionals have a scrupulous expectation of workplace ethics. Being some of the few individuals whom human trafficking victims may interact with, there is a growing call to action for those within healthcare to know how to recognize and respond to human trafficking. Human trafficking, which includes both sex and labor trafficking, is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor services or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center NHTRC. For many human trafficking victims, a lack of access can factor into the decision to not seek help. Fear and shame can also defer victims from self-identification. Fear of retaliation by a trafficker, of arrest, of a report to social services, or of deportation can all inhibit victims from deciding to access healthcare services.

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Human trafficking in the US is a rapidly growing humanitarian, public health, safety, law enforcement and homeland security issue. Many times it may intersect with domestic violence, child or elder abuse, or sexual assault. Here are informational resources for medical personnel. Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking National Hotline Quick Overview. General Information.

Child Advocacy and Protection

Provide a translation for this content. This presentation by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is directed towards the healthcare community. Specifically, this training will provide an understanding of the scope of human trafficking in the United States and potential health impacts for victims, identify signs that indicate that a patient is a potential victim of human trafficking, and identify promising practices for assisting a patient that may be a potential victim of human trafficking.

Resources for Health Care Professionals



An online training for healthcare professionals on how to identify human trafficking victims within a healthcare context.
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