More than 87% of sex trafficking victims say they had some contact with healthcare workers while they were being trafficked. That and other alarming statistics were shared by a new trafficking work group recently formed at Seattle Children’s to raise awareness among staff about this issue and share tips for helping people being trafficked.

Human trafficking doesn’t always look like what you expect. It can be a new immigrant with limited language skills, as many people know; but it can also be a young American mom who needs food, a safe place to stay and diapers for her children. Trafficking survivor Kyra Doubek told Children’s employees during a recent presentation that she was a trafficking victim years ago at age 18 when she brought in her infant son for hernia surgery, with her trafficker. No one at the hospital recognized her situation. “The trafficked person could be anybody who comes into your hospital,” Kyra says. “You’d be surprised at who might need help.”

The trafficking work group at Children’s shared eight signs of human trafficking and four screening questions for providers to ask their patients:

Eight Signs of Human Trafficking

  1. Experiencing homelessness or frequent changes in housing
  2. Delay in seeking medical treatment for significant medical concerns
  3. Reluctance to speak on own behalf
  4. Accompanying individual refuses to leave the room
  5. History of pregnancies, abortions or treatment for sexually transmitted infections
  6. Youth is familiar with sexual terms/practices used in commercial sexual exploitation
  7. Multiple cell phones or hotel keys
  8. Excess cash or expensive gifts, clothing or jewelry

Four Questions to Ask Every Patient

  1. Do you have a safe place to stay?
  2. Is everything good at home?
  3. Do you have everything you need — food, shelter, diapers?
  4. Are there any referrals I can give you?

View the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on human trafficking, Global Human Trafficking and Child Victimization.