Monday, October 27, 2014
Why health professionals must report human trafficking victims
A Boston Globe article outlining findings of a new study report on human trafficking cites "passive" law enforcement approaches and victims' fears of deportation as reasons why more victims are not reported and rescued.
Healthcare professionals also play a key role in responding to victims. A recent study by experts Dr. Laura Lederer and Christopher Wetzel revealed that nearly nine out of ten human trafficking victims had contact with a health professional while trafficked. Yet these opportunities for rescue went unrealized, since many health professionals remain unaware of the problem and comparatively few have received training on how to recognize and respond to victims.
Federal and state laws and grants that promote awareness, fund research, identify best practices, provide training, increase social services and require reporting of suspected victims (who often will not self-report, out of fear) can help turn this around. More resources will strengthen the social services safety net and the response of law enforcement. Meanwhile, reporting victims to the care of even the existing imperfect system is far better than the alternative of non-reporting that returns victims to their abusers to suffer disease, violence and even death.