Identifying Human Trafficking in Adults
When victims of trafficking cross paths with a medical practitioner this is a key opportunity: if they are able to spot the signs of trafficking, take safeguarding steps and build trust, they can support survivors to access services to ensure protection from further exploitation.
Trafficked people may live for years under the control of their traffickers, and the impact on their physical and mental health can be profound and enduring. They may not be able to talk about what's happened to them straight away.
Rachel Witkin, Dr Jane Hunt and Prof. Cornelius Katona's article on Identifying Human Trafficking in Adults in the BMJ outlines key indicators of trafficking and how clinicians can support survivors in a trauma-informed way
Thank you to Minh Dang, Executive Director of Survivors Alliance, for her contributions to this article.
Here is a brief overview:
What you need to know
Psychological violence is integral to all forms of trafficking exploitation; physical and sexual violence are also prevalent
Trafficked people may live for years under the control of their traffickers, and the impact on their physical and mental health can be profound and enduring
Trafficked people are likely to have had pre-trafficking vulnerabilities (including poverty, destitution, experiences of war/community violence, domestic violence, adverse childhood events, disabilities, and learning difficulties) which can create cumulative harm
Stay curious in any consultation; ask appropriate, sensitive questions; create an environment where the patient can feel comfortable to talk openly; and apply “trauma informed” methods of working. Follow local safeguarding policies if you are concerned about a patient