According to the US Fire Administration, one of the most effective ways to counter and prevent human trafficking is through the training of health and public safety workers.
Training helps workers to correctly recognize and react to signs of human trafficking when interacting with the public.
EMS workers are well-suited to help counter human trafficking. They are often in contact with the most vulnerable members of the public and already have the needed interviewing skills to identify likely trafficking victims.
There are multiple types of human trafficking — such as human organ trafficking — but the two most common ones are labor and sex trafficking.
Victims are lured, recruited, or trapped through fake job ads, fraudulent travel agencies, and false promises.
- Over 26,000 calls to law enforcement and other organizations were related to human trafficking;
- Almost 9,000 cases were reported;
- Women and children were the primary victims; and
- Sex trafficking was the most common form of trafficking.
Due to their trauma, the victims may seem unresponsive to questions, show anger, and they may even display an unusual loyalty to their traffickers.
EMS training should include techniques on how to ask gentle, non-judgmental questions, and how to listen carefully and understand victim responses in the context of possible trafficking.
Anyone can be trafficked, but the most vulnerable populations are:
- Women and children;
- Recent immigrants;
- Children who are homeless or are in the child welfare system; and
- Individuals with substance abuse or mental health issues.
Trafficking signs can be recognized by the following:
- Tattoos of names or barcodes on victims that indicate ownership of a trafficker;
- Intentional scarring on victims;
- People unable or not allowed to speak for themselves;
- People not carrying any personal identification (because the traffickers are holding it); and
- Bruises, broken bones and malnutrition.
Through the Blue Campaign, the Department of Homeland Security and its partners developed a robust public awareness and media campaign, along with training materials to increase awareness and understanding of human trafficking indicators.
Noah Smith, MPH, EMT, a project manager with the NHTSA Office of EMS, said, “EMS has an important role to play in the effort to end human trafficking. As responders who are often the first to arrive at a scene, EMS practitioners are in a position to look for key indicators to identify potential victims, provide the appropriate care and access to resources, and potentially save a life.”