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Intercepting Human Trafficking Victims in the ER

U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel

Human trafficking, illegally transporting people for forced labor or commercial sex, is one of the world’s largest criminal industries. It’s found in every state in the U.S., including Iowa.

On this edition of River to River, we hear the story of Amber Causey, a survivor, and veteran of the U.S. Army, who was trafficked for commercial sex as a teenager.

Teresa Davidson, ARNP, MSN

Host Ben Kieffer also talks with Teresa Davidson, the co-founder and president of Chains Interrupted, and the first anti-human trafficking coordinator at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, about the importance of healthcare professionals being educated on human trafficking and helping survivors.

Davidson has worked within the anti-human trafficking movement for six years and says that health care providers are critical potential identifiers of trafficking because most victims visit physicians during their time in captivity.

“There are a lot of people out there who don’t realize how prevalent it is, and I’m seeing the hospital as a big potential giant in helping the situation.”

Davidson says common signs of trafficking include, "Anyone coming in with long term healthcare issues that aren’t being addressed, like diabetes, chronic issues, multiple STDs, old wounds that weren't cared for properly." She says to also look for signs that a patient is being controlled by someone else. Often victims, "won't look you in the eye, won't speak for themselves, and don't know where they are."

The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached at 1-888-373-7888. The Iowa Helpline can be reached by dialing 1-800-770-1650 or texting "IOWAHELP" to 20121.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River