Is your Center Informed?
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. According to the American Health Association, estimates show that approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women, and health care providers are often the first professionals to have contact with trafficked women and girls.
Pregnancy centers are in a unique position to make a difference in a trafficked women and her unborn baby’s life, just by being informed and knowing what to do. Unfortunately, many women who are being trafficked are forced into having abortion. It may be your center that she walks into, to seek answers and help in her time of crisis.
There are common myths and misconceptions about human trafficking. Many believe that people being trafficked are physically unable to leave their situation or are locked in against their will. Some may believe that human trafficking only happens in illegal or underground industries and that traffickers only target those they do not know. Those are just a few of the common myths. If these are myths, then what are the facts?
Human trafficking can happen to anyone but some may be more at risk than others. According to Polaris, traffickers recognize and take advantage of those who are vulnerable. This includes those in foster care, runaways or those in involved in the juvenile justice system. It includes those with an unstable living situation and those who may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, or has a caregiver/family member with a substance abuse issue. It can happen to those with economic need or those facing poverty, and undocumented immigrants.
Recognizing key indicators is valuable information as you may be saving the trafficked victims life. I will list some indicators below, but please remember not all indicators listed are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.
- If the person is school age are they attending school?
- No Personal ID, or Fake ID
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- In the presence of a “boyfriend” may call him “Daddy”
- References of the “the game” or “the life”
- Excess cash/hotel room keys
- Has branding tattoos (money signs, initials, name, weapons, crown or barcode)
- Will not make eye contact
Now that you know some potential indicators it is even more important to know what to do. If possible speak to the women alone and always approach her with empathy. Do not start the conversation by asking “Are you being sex trafficked?” Begin with something like “Do you feel safe in your home?” or “I noticed your guest with you today. Do you feel like you can speak openly in their presence?” and reaffirm them that you just want to make sure they are safe. Build rapport and listen well. Most victims feel like no one can be trusted. So it’s important that you continue to do what you do best, give the woman who is in crisis back her power and control. Empower her by giving her education on how to move forward, when she is ready.
At your center you will want to be familiar with local community resources. Know which hospitals in your area have Forensic Nurses or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. All the victim has to do is show up in the Emergency Department and allow the experts to take over. Establish a connection with the local advocacy centers in your area and be informed on how they can assist. Most importantly, no matter if the person is ready to take the next step to freedom or not, call the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline. Even if you are not 100% certain about the situation, report what you know and/or you can request resources. As always, if the person is in immediate danger call 911.
U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline 1 888 373-7888 or for the victim text “BeFree” 233733
By Carla Idrees, RN, BSN, FME