How Nursing Professionals Can Identify Human Trafficking Victims

By NurseTogether.Com

As Nurses we come across ALL types of patients and situations, sadly Human Trafficking is real in the world and as long as we have the knowledge and proper care we can help stop and or prevent it from continuing. Every bit of help is needed to stop this horrible  mess towards women of all ages. So next time you are doing your assessment on your new patient please take the time to go over these SIGNS listed below. You could be ending a horrible nightmare for someone!

This article specifically focuses on the nurse’s role in identifying a victim of human trafficking. As a nurse providing direct bedside or emergency care to a patient, he/she is positioned strategically to recognize potential red flags indicating the victim is being trafficked. When victims of trafficking have serious health issues, traffickers will occasionally seek to obtain medical treatment for the victim. Some key indicators for a nurse to watch for would be:

  • Lack of health care (evidence of numerous untreated or prolonged/ongoing health issues or medical problems/injuries)
  • Bruising, (all in different stages noted by the appearance of different coloring, yellow, purple, blue), signs of physical/sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
  • Presence of a third party who will not leave the individual alone, perhaps posing as the victim’s “translator”
  • Multiple or frequent pregnancies
  • Multiple STD’s
  • Malnourishment
  • Pain/injury in lower back or back of head; important to note that sex industry victims are often beaten in areas where are not obviously visible that would damage their outward appearance.
  • Fear and depression
  • Exhibiting signs of being controlled Unable to move or leave their job by choice

Victim identification is the nurse’s first step in combating modern-day slavery. Whether it is a young child, a teen, a woman or a man; victims can be from any age group and may be either female or male. When it comes to rescue and restoration of victims, nurses are a vital link in that portion of the chain as well. However, before rescue and restoration can take place, a victim must first be identified.

United States Department of Health and Human Services Rescue and Restore Campaign materials from


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