The Vital Role of Nurses in Combating Human Trafficking

3 Min Read Published January 8, 2024
The Vital Role of Nurses in Combating Human Trafficking

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, in this episode of the Nurse Converse Podcast, our host Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN, who works as a forensic nurse examiner and sexual assault nurse examiner, provides valuable insights into the nature of human sex trafficking, its impact on victims and how nurses are often the first line of defense in identifying and helping victims. 

Podcast Episode

>>Listen To The Vital Role Of Nurses in Combating Human Trafficking with Leah Helmbrecht, Forensic Nurse Examiner


Identifying Potential Human Trafficking Victims: 4 Indicators

  • Constant Presence of a Controller: The individual is consistently accompanied by someone, this person could be their trafficker or someone working for a trafficking organization. 
  • Strict Avoidance of Solitude: The person is never granted the opportunity to be alone.
  • Lack of Access to Personal Identification: Victims often do not possess or have control over their own identification.
  • Inability to Speak Freely: When questioned, the individual's responses are consistently controlled or spoken for by someone else. 

It is crucial to note that even if healthcare professionals manage to have a private conversation with a potential victim, they may hesitate to acknowledge their situation due to the severe abuse, isolation, and manipulation imposed by their trafficker.

Key Takeaways

Leah discusses common misconceptions and highlights the prevalence of this crime within society. Human trafficking is a pervasive issue that continues to plague societies around the world. It is a form of modern-day slavery that involves the exploitation of individuals, often women and children, for various purposes such as forced labor, sexual exploitation, and organ trafficking. Despite efforts to combat this heinous crime, human trafficking remains a lucrative and clandestine industry, generating billions of dollars in profits each year. 

  • Leah emphasizes that human sex trafficking is not limited to other countries or stranger abductions, as often portrayed in the media. Rather, it occurs within communities, perpetrated by individuals known to the victims, such as family members, friends, or romantic partners. This highlights the complexity and insidious nature of human trafficking, as it often involves manipulation, coercion, and psychological abuse.
  • Society is complicit in perpetuating human trafficking. Leah indicates there’s a demand for commercial sex acts and a link between pornography and human trafficking. The majority of traffickers and buyers are men, and the demand for sexual exploitation fuels the supply of victims. This affirms the need for society to address the root causes of human trafficking, including gender inequality, harmful societal norms, and the objectification of women.
  • The role of healthcare professionals in identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking is essential. Leah provides valuable insights into the signs and indicators that healthcare workers should be aware of when interacting with potential victims. Creating a safe and supportive environment for victims to disclose their situation and seek help is a main priority.
  • Leah stresses that the need for hospital protocols and training programs to equip healthcare workers with the knowledge and skills to effectively respond to cases of human trafficking is vital. Collaboration between healthcare professionals, law enforcement agencies, and advocacy groups is necessary in combating human trafficking.

It’s imperative for society to address the widespread issue that is human trafficking. By raising awareness, challenging misconceptions, and promoting collaboration, we can work towards eradicating human trafficking and ensuring the safety and well-being of all individuals.

If you or someone you know is being human trafficked or in a human trafficking situation, please reach out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or you can text INFO in all caps to 2-3-3-7-3-3.

>>Listen to this episode on the Nurse Converse podcast

Youtube video

Connect With Leah on social media:

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Leah Helmbrecht
Leah Helmbrecht
Host, Nurse Converse Podcast

Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN currently works as a Forensic Nurse Examiner/Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner in Denver, CO. She graduated from Nursing School in 2009 and has experience in a variety of nursing specialties: Ortho/Trauma Floor Nurse, Operating Room Nurse, Travel OR Nurse, Nurse Advice Line, and Discharge Nurse.

Leah currently focuses on spreading awareness surrounding Sexual Assault, Human Sex Trafficking, and Domestic Violence through her Instagram platform @offtheclocknurse and is helping to create an online educational module system for Schools and Hospital staff to learn more about Human Sex Trafficking called Walking Wise, which will go live February 2024. Leah is dedicated to talking about uncomfortable topics to not only educate the public but also let survivors know they aren’t alone. She states, “Evidence collection is just a small part of my job. As a Forensic Nurse Examiner, I am always a Nurse first, and making sure the mental and physical well-being of my patients takes priority. During any assault, power, and control over a victim’s bodily autonomy were taken away. During my forensic exam I do everything I can to give my patient’s back that power and control. They are no longer victims, they are survivors.”

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