Facilitator Training

Facilitating a conversation about human trafficking can be difficult. It is an emotionally charged topic with numerous myths floating around, a lack of evidence on prevalence and screening tools, and is generally a new topic to most people, including healthcare providers. However, there are a few key points that should be considered by any facilitator discussing human trafficking:1

1. It is essential to dispel myths and state the facts

ILO and Polaris Logos

Ensure that international data is from a reputable source such as the International Labor Organization and that national data is from comprehensive databases such as the Polaris. It is also important not to inflate calls or information seeking about human trafficking with substantiated prevalence rates.

2. Provide a comprehensive overview of human trafficking

Silhouettes depicting a wide range of people

It is important to focus on both labor and sex trafficking occurring among adults, children, foreign nationals, and victims. There is no one profile for human trafficking, so examples and content should encompass a diverse group of victims.

3. Avoid sensationalized imagery and stories

A picture of chains with the word "Avoid"

We have all heard the stories about individuals who are “taken” and seen pictures of “chains” and “tattoos” associated with human trafficking; however, these images represent the unicorns of human trafficking not the majority of cases. It is important to avoid reinforcing this misleading imagery.

4. The importance of trauma-informed care cannot be overlooked

Provider showing compassion to patient

We must recognize the trauma survivors have experienced and the impact it can have on their health, behavior, and desires. Our mindset should be focused on “What happened to our patients?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”

5. Include survivor voices and choices

Patients should be treated as the experts on their situation and their bodies and we need to respect their desires and recognize the trauma they have experienced. It is important to situate any discussion about human trafficking around survivor voices and choices.

6. Do not re-invent the wheel

Individual reviewing existing policies

In many health facilities, healthcare systems and providers can build off of pre-existing policies related to intimate partner violence and child maltreatment. Use these principles to provide examples about screening, response, and working with law enforcement.

7. Provide up-to-date information on screening tools

Provider going through a screening process

The priority is to establish trust and rapport, rather than achieve disclosure. Currently there are only a handful of validated human trafficking screening tools. However, research on this topic is growing. It is important to remain up-to-date on current research and recommendations for evidence-based screening.

8. Have an honest conversation about involving law enforcement

Do not advise health care providers to contact law enforcement for all cases of human trafficking unless mandatory reporting laws require such disclosures. In many cases, human trafficking is not a mandatory report and involving law enforcement could put the victim or their family at risk of further harm. Some state laws also put individuals, including minors, at risk of arrest for prostitution. Conversations with law enforcement about human trafficking are best accomplished before a case presents.

9. Recognize the need for interdisciplinary approaches

Human trafficking victims have complex healthcare, social service, and reintegration needs that cannot be addressed in silos. It is essential that we consider interdisciplinary response protocols to make sure we are working together with law enforcement and social service agencies to provide the best care and services we can to these very vulnerable victims.

10. Finally, acknowledge that this can be difficult

Most patients are not necessarily going to come out and say that they are a victim of trafficking. Some are in denial, some are being threatened, some people’s families are being threatened. These people may be unwilling to get help for their current situation. One of the most important things to remind healthcare providers is to trust your gut and to take care of themselves. This may include debriefing a difficult situation, seeking employee assistance services, or reminders to engage in self-care.

1. HEAL Trafficking. (2018). Introductory Training on Human Trafficking for U.S. Health Care Professionals.

Retrieved from https://healtrafficking.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Essential-Components-for-a-Health-Professional-Trafficking-Training.pdf

Did you know?


Forced labor in the private economy generates an estimated $150 billion in illegal profits per year.


At any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery.


Their are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world.

If you are in the United States and you need help or you want to learn more about human trafficking:

Call: 1 (888) 373-7888
National Human Trafficking Hotline
SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish, and 200 more languages
Website: humantraffickinghotline.org



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