Human trafficking is an incredibly challenging problem to solve because it hides in the shadows. Not only are traffickers motivated to keep their activities under the radar of law enforcement, but often victims are, too. Is that young woman with the broken arm who was brought to your emergency department by a male “friend” a trafficking victim? What about the shy young man with the black eye and sexually transmitted infection? And if they are, what can you do about it?
Cynthia M. Deitle, JD, spent two decades with the FBI’s civil rights program, which includes a program to combat human trafficking. Her experience ranged from working on individual trafficking cases to being chief of the civil rights unit, giving her a broad understanding of the trafficking problem in the United States and the bureau’s efforts to combat it. She recently sat down with ACEP Now Medical Editor-in-Chief Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP, to talk about some of the challenges she faced while trying to help trafficking victims, and what emergency department staff can use to try to help suspected victims. Here is Part 2 of that conversation; Part 1 appeared in the March issue.
KK: I heard you tell a story not long ago that really illustrated how victims are able to hide in communities, oftentimes intentionally, because they’re not ready to leave or feel like they can’t. Can you tell us about that?
CD: Sure. We love for victims to somehow get to an ER. Please understand I’m not happy they’re injured, but we’re grateful that now they’re in a place that is safe. Also, there are many people the victim has to talk to, and hopefully one of them can crack through and encourage her and persuade her to tell the truth about why she is there to begin with.
So what we see, especially when it comes to ERs, is most of the time she’s not going to walk in there by herself. She’s going to an ER because her pimp can’t use her because she’s pregnant, she has an ovarian cyst that is painful, she needs an appendectomy, she’s been beaten so badly that she’s no use to him, etc. For him to keep earning money from her, she has to get cured, she has to be healed. He needs her back on her feet, so he will take her to get medical attention.