The Texas Human Trafficking Resource Center connects Health and Human Services staff, healthcare providers, stakeholders and potential victims of human trafficking to local, state and national resources to identify and help people affected by human trafficking.
The center increases awareness of health care issues surrounding human trafficking victims and coordinates with stakeholders, including the Department of Family and Protective Services, the Office of the Governor and the Office of the Attorney General on anti-trafficking initiatives.
What Is Human Trafficking?
The United States Department of Justice generally classifies human trafficking into two major categories:
- Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is 17 or younger.
- Labor trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtainment of a person through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Victims can be any age and are trafficked by anyone, including family members, extended relatives, friends, spouses and partners, as well as acquaintances and strangers.
How Do I Identify Human Trafficking in My Clinic?
Health care providers have a unique opportunity to become the first point of contact in identifying and connecting Texans who have been trafficked. It is important to understand the dynamics of human trafficking, know what questions to ask when you suspect someone may be a victim and to have appropriate resources about available services to offer victims. It is vital for health care providers to take a thoughtful, approach to engaging patients. Creating a safe environment will help you identify trafficking indicators and help your patient.
The following is a list of Red flags to look for when treating your patients. This list is not exhaustive, and each indicator on its own may not imply a trafficking situation. If several red flags are present, this may point to the need for referrals and further assessment. Red flags may include:
- Frequent treatment of sexually transmitted infections or injuries
- Multiple unwanted pregnancies
- Fractures or burns
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Skin or respiratory problems caused by exposure to agricultural or other chemicals Communicable and non-communicable diseases
- Oral health issues, including broken teeth
- Chronic pain
- Signs of concussions, traumatic brain injuries or unexplained memory loss
- Unwilling to answer questions about their health Unable to concentrate or provide basic information including age, address or time
- Gives confusing or contradicting information
- Abuses substances
- Has depression and anxiety
- Is nervous or avoids eye contact
- Has post-traumatic stress disorder
Other Indicators of Trafficking
- Another person appears to be in control of them and doesn't let them answer questions
- Reports a high number of sexual encounters
- Doesn't have possession of their own identification documents
- Lives in overcrowded areas or at their workplace
- Has tattoos or other branding of ownership
- Wears inappropriate clothing for the weather or venue
Learn more about required training for health care practitioners on the Health Care Practitioner Human Trafficking Training page.
What to Do if I Suspect Someone Is a Victim of Trafficking
If you suspect your patient may be a victim of human trafficking, try to find a time and place to speak with the patient privately, especially if they are accompanied by someone who could be their trafficker.
Questions You May Want to Ask
- Where do you live? Who do you live with? Are you able to come and go as you please, or do you have to be accompanied by someone? Are you free to talk to anyone you want outside of your home or work?
- Do you know where you are right now? How did you get here?
- Do you feel safe at home or with the person who came with you today?
- Has anyone made you do something you didn't want to do?
- Have you been physically threatened or has your family been threatened?
- Have you ever been asked to work in an environment that is unfair, unsafe or dangerous?
If you suspect human trafficking, you can submit an anonymous tip to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. For immediate assistance or to speak directly with a hotline advocate, call 888-373-7888.
If You Determine a Patient is a Potential Victim of Trafficking
- Offer the patient the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number, 888-373-7888 and encourage them to call if they want help or to talk to someone. If the patient believes it is dangerous to have the number written down you can have them memorize the number. One way to help the patient memorize the number is to break it into smaller segments, such as 888-37-37-888.
- If the patient is in immediate, life-threatening danger, follow your institutional policies for reporting to law enforcement. Whenever possible, make an effort to work with the patient in the decision to contact law enforcement.
- Provide the patient with options for services, reporting and resources.
- Ensure safety planning is included in the discharge planning process.
- If the patient is a minor, follow mandatory state reporting laws and institutional policies for child abuse or serving unaccompanied youth.
- Ensure any information regarding the patient's injuries or treatment is fully and accurately documented in the patient's records.
If you suspect human trafficking, you can submit an anonymous tip to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. For immediate help or to speak directly with a hotline advocate, call 888-373-7888.
For More Information and Resources
To get help or report trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline:
- Call: 888-373-7888
- Send a text message: Text HELP to BEFREE (233733)
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chat online: National Human Trafficking Hotline
For information on training, technical assistance and resources email the Texas Human Trafficking Resource Center at Human_Trafficking@hhsc.state.tx.us.
To learn more about how HHSC is serving victims of human trafficking, view the HHSC Provider Guidebook: Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in Texas (PDF).