The article will address the global and local issue of human trafficking. An estimated 20,000 people are trafficked within the U.S. each year. Trafficked people are forced, defrauded and coerced into labor and sexual service for profit of others. Traffickers use individual vulnerabilities and immigration status, language ability and poor understanding of U.S. laws to identify future victims. One case in 2005 in Texas resulted in 100 victims being identified, none of whom revealed themselves to health care professionals.

Health care professionals need contemporary and updated information and resources about health risks, screening methods, and identification of trafficked persons. Readers will learn about common medical problems experienced by individuals who are leaving trafficking situations. Legal and health care intersections will be explored. Implementation of a response protocol to assist those who may currently be enslaved will be introduced.

Real case examples from trafficking survivors will be presented and discussed. Participants will learn how to reach out, look beneath the surface, provide assistance, and access resources to help victims, and gain a better understanding of the health challenges faced by trafficked victims.

Key Take Away Points

Human trafficking victims:

  • Are involved in domestic, sex, or farm work and multiple other types of service jobs;
  • Are drawn into the work by means of force, fraud, or coercion;
  • May be minors in the U.S. under the age of 18 involved in a commercial sex acts;
  • Are not the same as persons who are smuggled;
  • Are primarily women and children;
  • Are often kept in isolation and may adapt to the situation;
  • Are likely not to be identified by health care providers;
  • Have access to health and legal interventions when identified;
  • May benefit from interventions based on the stage of trafficking they are in when identified; and,
  • Are burdened for a lifetime with physical and mental health effects.

Author Biography

Patricia A. Crane has a Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh, and her dissertation and subsequent research focuses on injuries and nursing care following sexual assault. She is an Assistant Professor at the School of Nursing, University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, Texas. She has been a board certified Women’s Health Care Nurse Pracitioner for 30 years working in indigent and diverse clinical settings in multiple states. She acts as faculty for diverse health professions students doing community health and well-woman care in Brownsville, Texas and free clinics and border clinics in Texas. She teaches health professions students in the Global Health Track at UTMB as well as multiple other courses in the undergraduate nursing and nurse practitioner programs. Dr. Crane is an active member and on the board of multiple professional organizations as well as active committee member on campus, school of nursing and organizational committees. She presents locally, regionally, and internationally several times a year addressing forensic (medico-legal) health issues and women’s health. She has multiple peer reviewed journal articles and other publications. She continues a multi-state forensic nursing practice to provide consultation, education, and expert witness testimony for attorneys in all types of interpersonal violence cases.

Melissa Moreno received a Juris Doctorate from St. Mary’s University, School of Law, San Antonio Texas. Her legal work has focused on representing underserved populations: disabled children; children in state custody due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment; domestic violence victims; unaccompanied immigrant children; and survivors of human trafficking. Prior to joining Catholic Charities, she was a staff attorney for Family Violence Prevention Services, Battered Women’s & Children Shelter, providing civil legal service to the homeless population in San Antonio area as part of the Housing & Urban Development, Supportive Housing Program (SHP). Melissa was hired by Catholic Charities, as a staff attorney and coordinator for the Unaccompanied Immigrant Children’s Program in August of 2007. Currently, in her role as Director of the Anti-Trafficking Program, she is responsible for overseeing a federal grant award by the Office of Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, to provide comprehensive services to victims of human trafficking including direct victim assistance to foreign national victims, technical support to law enforcement agencies and social service agencies/organizations, community outreach and education, and chairing the South Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking.