Nurses: First Line of Defense for Trafficked Minors

Nurses: First Line of Defense for Trafficked Minors

Nurses and other healthcare workers are in a unique position to identify cases of sex trafficking, since 88 percent of victims will present with a medical or health issue at some point. 

Rattling off statistics that would shock even the most cynical, Adjunct Professor Daniel Hughes, MSN, CNL’19 led a training for nursing students on the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) in the U.S. The talk was held at the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Sciences and was sponsored by Mu Chi.

DMST is defined as the sexual exploitation through buying, selling, or trading sexual services of anyone under 18 through the use of force, fraud, and/or coercion. According to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation, and thousands are forced into domestic sex slavery each year. The average age of entry is 13 years old. Approximately 70 percent of victims are girls.

“Most people think that those trafficked are minors brought across the border, but most are American kids who are being exploited, and 60 percent of them are actually living at home.” Though every county in Connecticut has witnessed multiple cases, the I-95 corridor is particularly active. “It’s the link between Miami, D.C., Boston, and New York. Traffickers come to Connecticut where the motel rooms are cheaper than they are in the city,” Hughes explained.

It is essential for those working in the healthcare field to be able to recognize the signs that someone is being trafficked because healthcare workers are mandated to report incidents of suspected abuse. Those who work in emergency departments, outpatient clinics, and walk-ins are required to attend annual trainings so they can recognize signs of sexual exploitation and follow reporting procedures. That includes knowing what questions to ask, separating the victim from the trafficker, and knowing whom to call. “We don’t need proof of exploitation,” Hughes stressed. “We are not law enforcement. If you have reason to suspect abuse, that’s enough to contact the authorities.” 

DMST is a billion-dollar industry – surpassing the sale of guns, and just behind the sale of illicit drugs. “You might only sell a gun a few times, but you can sell the human body over and over every night,” said Hughes. Not surprisingly, incidents of DMST have exploded because of the internet.

Joining Hughes for the question and answer session after his presentation was Tammy Sneed, director of HART, the Human Anti-Trafficking Response Team, a division of the Department of Children and Families.

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Last modified: 03-13-20 9:07 AM

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