A Human Trafficking Victim Walks into Your Practice. Do You Know the Signs?

August 8, 2017


Human Trafficking is happening right now in your state, in your city. It affects millions of people, primarily young girls. Have you come across a human trafficking victim in your practice? Most physicians would say “no.” In fact, only 10% of physicians surveyed believe they have treated a human trafficking victim, and 70% of people surveyed said they wouldn’t know what to do if a human trafficking victim showed up in their offices.

Many people think human trafficking victims are prostitutes, but he fact is victims of human trafficking are slaves. The average age for a girl to be trafficked is between 12-14 years old. She is emotionally manipulated, physically abused and drug addicted to be sold over and over again by her pimp. And because they constantly engage in risky behavior, human trafficking victims see doctors.

Signs that the patient you are encountering may be a human trafficking victim.

(Source: PATH)

  1. Clothing that is seasonally or situationally inappropriate.
  2. Bruising, scars, burns and cuts in non-visible areas.
  3. Repeated STDs or pregnancies.
  4. Fearful, anxious or depressed mood.
  5. Pay in cash and/or do not have health insurance.
  6. Mal-nourished.
  7. A third party speaks for the patient.
  8. Drug addiction or withdrawal.
  9. Patient lies about her age.
  10. It becomes clear that the patient is transient.
  11. Patient tattooed with some identifying symbol (like a tag), indicating she is the property of someone.

It’s important to note that someone exhibiting one or many of the signs listed above may not be a human trafficking victim; however, when a patient does exhibit these qualities or behaviors, it’s important to ask the right questions without judgment. Questions like “Are you okay?” “Are you hungry?” “Do you live, work and sleep in the same place” “Can we speak alone?” will give you the information you need to take the next appropriate steps.

For information about how to spot a human trafficking victim, what questions to ask and what next steps you should make as a physician, please contact PATH (Physicians Against the Trafficking of Humans). As a doctor, you are on the front lines in this fight against human slavery. Your careful intervention can and will make a difference.