TROY — Victims of human trafficking don’t want to be in that situation, but also won’t readily admit what’s going on in their lives, a human trafficking liaison told participants in a seminar at Upper Valley Medical Center earlier this month.
The program, hosted by the UVMC Emergency Department and Premier Learning Institute with support from the UVMC Foundation, was designed to help individuals recognize human trafficking victims or situations, obtain community resources, and report to the appropriate officials.
Tonya Folks, liaison with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, discussed trafficking in labor and sex and the red flags of possible victimization. Folks said the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is the only one in the country with a human trafficking liaison. She works closely with a detective focusing primarily on the Miami Valley region.
Human trafficking is using “force, fraud or coercion against another for financial gain,” she said. Although labor trafficking is associated with certain types of work, sex trafficking is “a little more hidden in plain sight,” Folks said.
The victims of human trafficking often are seen in a medical setting with injuries connected to their trafficking, she said. When they seek treatment, they are accompanied by someone involved in their trafficking and likely have been instructed never to be out of that person’s sight or hearing, she said. “Traffickers brain wash them into believing you will judge them” in a negative light, Folks said
Among red flags of possible trafficking, Folks said, are a delay in seeking care; hospital and clinic hopping; appearing younger than say they are; teens traveling with older persons who ares not their guardians; people dressed inappropriately for the season; someone else is handling their IDs; persons not sure of where they are.
The possible victim should be able to tell the story of what happened to them backwards and answer specific questions about claimed actions leading to their seeking of treatment, Folks said. “If it happened to you, you know it backwards and forwards,” she said.
Folks encouraged dialogue with the person using a nonjudgmental approach. She said it’s not unusual to get a sharp reply. “The most they can say is it is none of your business,” she said. “None of them are happy … no matter how happy they say they are.”
Although there is no foolproof method of determining if someone is a human trafficking victim, Folks said it is best to rely on one’s own instincts.
“If you get a funny feeling in your stomach, just call,” she said.
The Miami Valley Human Trafficking Hotline is 937-866-1111. More information is available at www.rangetaskforce.org.