Human Trafficking
by Carolyn Gonzalez

What is human trafficking and why is it important to educate ourselves about it?

The Department of Homeland Security defines it as a modern day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Globally the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims. In 2015 the FBI uncovered and dismantled a sex trafficking ring in Rochester, NY so this is both a global and local issue that can impact any vulnerable population. So what can we do about human trafficking and how may we help its victims? First we need to look for red flags so we can determine who might be a victim in danger of human trafficking.

According to the Rochester Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking there are many potential signs that can indicate a person is a victim of human trafficking. First, their work and living conditions may appear suspicious. If they are not free to leave and come and go as they wish or have very strict work restrictions with high security measures they might be in danger. Second, if the individual has poor mental health or abnormal behavior where they appear fearful, depressed, anxious about law enforcement, and avoid eye contact that may also be a red flag. Third, their physical appearance may offer clues as to whether they are malnourished, physically abused, or even sexually abused. Lastly, if the person appears to have a lack of control over their whereabouts and has few to no possessions, including identification that may indicate they are a victim of human trafficking.

So what can you do if you suspect human trafficking in your area? You can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 for help if you are a victim or to report about possible human trafficking in your area. There are also numerous internet resources as to how to volunteer and donate to victims of trafficking abuse. If you are a health care provider consider registering for the University of Rochester’s Anti-Human Trafficking Conference on January 27th, 2018. For more information about the conference please visit the site Together we can spread awareness about this issue, help people currently in danger, and help those who are survivors heal from their past.

Carolyn Gonzalez is a native of Rochester, NY of Puerto Rican descent. She is finishing her second year at the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. She completed her B.S. in Biology and Society with a double minor in Policy Analysis and Management and Inequalities Studies from Cornell University in 2011. Her medical specialty interests include primary care and psychiatry. She is on the executive board of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) who are committed to contribute educational articles relevant to the Latino community.