Human Trafficking

Originally approved April 2016

Human trafficking is a human rights violation with significant implications for the physical, sexual, and psychological health of those affected. Because victims of trafficking seek medical attention for acute injuries and illnesses as well as neglected chronic conditions, emergency clinicians are in a unique position to assess, intervene, and refer for assistance. Identification and assessment of victims can be difficult, however, human trafficking can encompass abuse in many different forms including neglect, intimidation, physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse.

 ACEP recommends that:

  • Emergency clinicians be familiar with potential signs, symptoms and indicators of human trafficking.
  • Emergency personnel maintain a high index of suspicion when evaluating patients of any age who appear to be at risk for abuse and violence and assess for specific indicators of trafficking.
  • In order to minimize the potential for retraumatization, potential victims of human trafficking should be evaluated using a culturally relevant and survivor-centered approach with an understanding of how trauma may affect an individual’s response to care.
  • Hospitals and emergency departments (EDs) have protocols in place to address the medical, psychological, safety, and legal needs of the victims of human trafficking. As many of the needs of victims of human trafficking may not be addressed in an ED visit, this includes referral to appropriate resources.
  • Emergency practitioners be aware of institutional protocols and resources to guide a safe and multidisciplinary approach to helping identified victims, including appropriate referrals.
  • ED and EMS staff receive ongoing training and education in the identification, management, and documentation of human trafficking victims.
  • Hospitals, EDs, and EMS maintain appropriate education regarding state and federal legal requirements for reporting human trafficking.
  • Emergency personnel be afforded protected or anonymous reporting.

ACEP supports:

  • Appropriate measures to prevent human trafficking in the community.
  • Hospital, ED, and EMS participation in collaborative interdisciplinary approaches for the recognition, assessment, and assistance of human trafficking victims. These approaches include the development of policies and protocols that account for the potential need to interface with outside entities such as local government agencies, law enforcement agencies, and other relevant legal and social service organizations.
  • Epidemiological research regarding the incidence and prevalence of human trafficking, as well as clinical research to identify best practice approaches and interventions in the prevention, detection, assessment, and assistance of human trafficking victims.
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