When Safe House Project began in 2017, America was waking up to trafficking like never before. What once was hidden, misidentified, or not discussed was now coming to the forefront and a focus to increase victim identification of the estimated 24 million experiencing sex trafficking was increasing. You see, at the time, only 1% of trafficking victims were ever identified.
At the tip of the spear for victim identification were healthcare workers. Historically, it has been estimated that 90% of victims receive healthcare services, usually for trafficking related medical concerns, during their trafficking situation. Healthcare workers hold a unique position to effectively identify and support trafficking survivors.
However, no one could anticipate a global pandemic that would shift the healthcare focus almost singularly to those impacted COVID-19. As the focus shifted to COVID-19, other challenges faded into the background.
Since 2017, in large part due to COVID-19, the number of people vulnerable to trafficking has drastically increased. Last week, the United Nations and World Health Organization announced new numbers reporting that 27 million people around the world are trafficking victims. That is a 12.5% increase in just 5 years. Unfortunately, the rate of identification has not increased accordingly. Instead, it is going in the opposite direction with an estimated 90K individuals identified annually. Which means that we are effectively identifying a mere .32% of victims
Put differently. Trafficking is up 12.5% and identification has decreased by 68%.
WE ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY!
There is no choice, everyone must be part of the solution to eradicate trafficking through increased victim identification, protection of victims, prosecution of traffickers and buyers, and prevention of trafficking. We must amplify efforts to educate law enforcement, healthcare workers, teachers, coaches, and community members on how to identify and respond to trafficking. Without it, survivors have even fewer opportunities to escape the cycle of victimization and receive necessary services.
Last week, Kristi Wells, Safe House Project CEO, was honored to attend a gathering at the United Nations that brought together healthcare professionals, government leaders, survivors, and NGO's to discuss our global response to trafficking. In addition, it was an opportunity to voice our support for the World Health Organization to lead a global response to Human Trafficking and deploy a Human Trafficking Protocol for healthcare providers around the world.
When we train our healthcare workers to effectively identify trafficking and equip them with the proper protocols, it is a one-two punch to trafficking. Not only do you break cycles of victimization, but proper identification leads to a reduction in improper resource allocation, creates a process to corroborate victims' testimonies in trafficking cases, and ultimately, provides a pathway for the victim to find healing and justice.
We are honored to be part of this solution by providing our H.O.P.E. Human Trafficking Training to healthcare workers. The H.O.P.E. Human Trafficking Training is a trauma-informed and survivor written training developed with the Academy of Forensic Nursing to empower healthcare workers to effectively identify trafficking victims, offer support, and provide resources. The H.O.P.E. Human Trafficking Training coupled with the World Health Organization’s Human Trafficking Protocol provides clear guidance to healthcare systems.
These collaborative initiatives by some of the world’s greatest leaders, provide an opportunity for all of us to unite in support of survivors. We greatly appreciate the work of our healthcare networks to empower their people who are on the frontlines to respond to some of the toughest, and most complex problems in our world–one epidemic after the next.