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Human Trafficking and Our Opportunity as Health Care Providers

April 20, 2018 | Healthcare Watch
Waist-down photo of person wearing jeans leaning against a wall

Before joining Planned Parenthood, Maggy spearheaded the California Department of Justice’s efforts to combat human trafficking, including prosecuting major cases, training to a wide range of participants, and providing expertise to the state legislature and federal government.

The Industry

Human trafficking is a 150-billion-dollar a year industry and occurs all over the world and right here in California. Often referred to as modern day slavery, at its core human trafficking is the deprivation of freedom, when a person, too often a child, is forced to work without pay. It frequently happens in the illegal commercial sex trade, where vulnerable teenagers are groomed by opportunistic predators. The victims often come from broken homes or desperate circumstances and are taken advantage of by “pimps” who typically use a combination of affection and manipulation followed by force and violence, to sell their victims to grown men for sex. It is unconscionable and yet, occurs every night in virtually every city, town and corner of California.

The People

The impact that it has on the victims is soul crushing. Most victims enter the sex trade in their early teens. Without a safety net at home or a sense of self-worth, they are convinced that their suffering is their fault, that they can’t get out, and that there’s no better life. It’s an awful cycle that has left far too many young people dead or incarcerated before ever having a chance.

Yet some of the victims have proven to be incredible survivors. The movement to end human trafficking has been led by powerful voices—survivor voices—who have shown phenomenal poise, courage and perseverance to ensure that their horrific experiences aren’t relived by anyone else. Guided by their wisdom and strength, health care providers can learn to identify red-flags, treat patients holistically, and potentially help human trafficking victims escape, see their own value, and reach full potential.

Powerpoint presentation about human trafficking, projected onto wall in a health center

Your Power

A University of Chicago study revealed that 87% of human trafficking victims seek care at a health center at some point while being trafficked—and nearly one third of them come through the doors of a Planned Parenthood

Without knowing what to look for, what to ask, or how to build trust, a victim could easily walk out of a health center with the condoms she came for, but without the emotional support and physical protection she so desperately needs.

Planned Parenthood medical providers have a tremendous opportunity, and a responsibility, which will never be taken lightly. In California, Planned Parenthood is ensuring that clinicians are trained to recognize red flags of sexual abuse and human trafficking. For example, a patient’s clothing, tattoos or branding, signs of sleep deprivation, substance abuse, inability to answer questions, being accompanied by a controlling third party, could all be warning signs that she is being trafficked. Victims of human trafficking are routinely devalued and dehumanized. They are treated as property--bought, sold, robbed, raped, and abused. Planned Parenthood is committed to treating all patients with dignity and respect no matter what. During sexual assault awareness month and always, Planned Parenthood is dedicated to being at the forefront of the fight to end human trafficking and sexual abuse and to provide a safe haven with quality health care for all patients.

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