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Physical and Verbal Indicators of Human Trafficking

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

The following is an excerpt from a larger article being published later this year. As part of our continuing education, we want to continue to bring medical professionals actionable steps to help in the assistance and rescue of human trafficking victims and sexually exploited youth.

This is the part of the article where you will be requested to participate in an interactive activity. If time and location allows, please find access to the internet. It might be your phone, on your computer, on a tablet.

Once online, please search the phrase “Human Trafficking Tattoo” into your search engine. (I apologize if this affects your otherwise pristine search history). Now, pay attention to what you are seeing.

Note names, symbols and phrases. Also note the locations on the body the tattoo is placed. These nuances are important to be made aware of as you might very well see them again in a clinical setting. (Or, as I have learned when doing live presentations, you might have already seen such tattoos but did not know what it was you were witnessing).

With this new knowledge, what otherwise would have been something you passed by, is now something that makes you take note. That said, there are many physical indicators of human trafficking. In movies, these are usually denoted by markings of trauma and physical abuse. But, they are not always that easy to spot. The first clear indicator, if present, is often that of the aforementioned tattoo. These can appear on various parts of the body including the mouth, chest, neck, lower back and vulva. However, many other physical and verbal indicators (some of which we will explore in more detail later in this article) may also be present such as:

- Physical signs of trauma

- Unexplained or conflicting story

- Inappropriate dress for weather conditions

- Usage of terminology from the life

- Lack of control of own finances

When evaluating a patient, if you witness these indicators, take note. Naturally, you will want to treat the issue for which the patient has come to you. However, be prepared to treat a myriad of other problems as well, including that of a someone who most likely is in dire need of safety.


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