January marks Human Trafficking Awareness Month, focusing on a subject whose numbers and data are hard to pin down.
To shed light on an issue that is often kept in the dark, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and the Michigan Women’s Commission hosted an event focused on educating health care providers on identifying risk factors and potential victims and how a health care provider can best assist.
Dr. Jordan Greenbaum, a leading national educator on human trafficking, presented to a group of medical professionals from the three area hospitals, Kent County Health Department and even local FBI agents on January 8, 2015.
Senator Judy K. Emmons, of the 33rd District, also attended the presentation with her staff, as Sen. Emmons has championed several pieces of legislation to enact tougher laws against those who traffic other humans, and provide more support, leniency and justice for victims of human trafficking.
Key points from Dr. Greenbaum’s presentation:
• No reliable estimates of how many people are being trafficked exist, as studies involving human trafficking for sex are also tied into labor trafficking, and international and domestic studies are grouped together. An estimate in 2002 says that 250,000-300,000 people are being trafficked in the US.
• Human trafficking may be on the increase, as gangs are beginning to get traffic humans, as laws are more lenient for human trafficking than for drug trafficking.
• Certain populations are high risk for being trafficked, such as runaway teens and those with substance abuse issues, however, the victims of human trafficking come from a wide range of backgrounds.
• Many victims don’t self-identify as a victim, making it more difficult for health care providers.
• Health care providers need to know who to call and to launch protocol for suspected human trafficking victims.
Why is it important for health care providers to be aware of human trafficking victims’ needs?
• No standard health care protocols exist for dealing with a victim of human trafficking.
• During the period of being trafficked, 88% of victims had seen a health care provider during their captivity. Twenty-five percent of victims had seen a health care provider in the past six months.
Stay tuned for more information about this important topic at Mercy Health.