Human Trafficking: What Medical Providers Need To Know

Addressing public health epidemics and fighting human trafficking face similar obstacles-dissemination of misinformation and urban legends that blind the public from the reality of the problem. In actuality, human trafficking is oftentimes difficult to detect, and the gravity of such cases can paralyze responders. The Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking (CCAHT) is leading the fight against human trafficking in East Tennessee by empowering our community through training and providing supportive services to survivors of trafficking.
In Tennessee, two types of trafficking, sex, and labor, fall under the broad term of human trafficking. Sex trafficking relates to forcing or coercing another individual to engage in a commercial sex act, a sex act for which something of value is exchanged. Labor trafficking relates to forcing or coercing another individual into involuntary servitude. While both types of trafficking occur throughout East Tennessee, sex trafficking is the more prevalent form of trafficking and oftentimes hides in plain sight.
Though sex trafficking is typically seen as a “big city problem,” the reality is that rural communities are especially vulnerable to this type of crime. A 2011 assessment conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found that 85% of Tennessee counties reported at least one case of sex trafficking. When sex trafficking occurs in rural communities, it is most commonly familial trafficking, which means a family member is the trafficker.
It is important for our community to be informed about this reality, but medical professionals have a unique responsibility in the fight against human trafficking. One study suggests that close to 90% of victims saw a medical provider and close to 65% of victims sought treatment at a hospital or emergency room while being trafficked. Unfortunately, recognizing a patient who is experiencing trafficking may be a difficult task.
To address this serious problem, the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking offers free, specialized trainings for medical providers and practical tools for screening and identifying individuals who have experienced trafficking. The CCAHT also serves and supports victims of trafficking through individualized, relational care through our direct services program, Grow Free Tennessee. To learn more about these services or to schedule a training, contact Natalie Ivey, CCAHT Director of Advocacy and Outreach, at natalie@ccaht.org.
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This article was published in the 2019 Spring edition of the EpiUpdate- Epidemiology and Public Health in East Tennessee. You can view that online here.
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