Human trafficking happens around us every day. This atrocity is present in our communities, across the street from the restaurants we go to, and sadly, in our emergency departments. Even though emergency providers are adept at detecting critical illness in a sea of toe pain, we often have difficulty finding sex trafficking “hiding” in plain sight. These, often voiceless, young, and poor victims can suffer serious health consequences resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. Traffickers rely on our care to keep victims healthy enough for continued exploitation. We treat sexually transmitted diseases, the complications of inadequate prenatal care, and trauma from physical and emotional abuse.
This may cause us to be angry and disgusted, but it should also spur us to action.
So what can we do? How do we identify these people who need our help the most? And what specifically should we do after we recognize them? This concise presentation will provide background understanding, dispel myths and provide tangible examples from our work establishing a sex trafficking screening in a busy, urban emergency department. It will raise awareness of three key opportunities to initiate the screening process – ‘red flags’, chief complaints and self-reporting. Importantly, this presentation will discuss actions to take after encountering a trafficked victim. Attendees will be able to return to their own emergency departments with greater clinical awareness and an ability to educate peers. For those who wish to establish their own screening system, they will have a framework for the implementation of a system-based protocol. It does not matter if you are in a rural or urban area, California or Missouri, human trafficking has found its way to every health care setting. This presentation will equip all healthcare providers, regardless of level of training or practice location, with the necessary tools to act in the best interest of these underserved patients.