Missed Connections to Save Trafficking Victims

The vast majority of sex trafficking victims have contact with health care providers—but most health workers have no idea they’re seeing trafficking cases. “People, including health care providers, think of trafficking as this mythical or foreign problem,” says Shantae Rodriguez, a physician assistant in Queens, New York.

That’s a missed opportunity, writes Johns Hopkins-Pulitzer Center Global Health Reporting Fellow Isabella Gomes.

Many survivors have severe medical conditions—yet they rarely feel able to tell health workers they are being trafficked. And just a sliver of doctors and residents receive training to address suspected human trafficking. But with proper guidance, they can learn to recognize the telltale signs—not to force a “rescue,” but to build trust slowly, recognizing that it typically takes victims 5-7 attempts to successfully leave their trafficker.

“It’s not that they’re not showing up,” says Rodriguez. “We’re not showing up for them.”

Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health

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