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Human Trafficking and Its Signs in Patients

The problem of human trafficking is a health hazard for the victims of this form of modern day slavery. According to Niewiarowska (2015), out of the 21 million victims of human trafficking, 9.5 million are men while 11.5 million are women (Niewiarowska, 2015). The prevalent human trafficking behavior predisposes victims to health problems that nurses should evaluate by the presenting signs and symptoms before providing the necessary assistance.

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Places and Reasons for High Prevalence of Human Trafficking

Places in which human trafficking occur vary depending on the purpose of this modern day slavery. For instance, sex trafficking is common in escort services, hotels, streets, truck stops, strip clubs or hostesses, online platforms, and commercial front brothels (National Human Trafficking Resource Center [NHTRC], 2012). However, labor trafficking is a common phenomenon in agricultural, health and beauty, and landscaping places. Places for domestic work such as homes, transport places with traveling sales crews, and begging rings register high prevalence rates of human trafficking for labor exploitation of victims (NHTRC, 2012). Although human trafficking is prevalent in these places, it is a common occurrence in almost all areas that have the demand for cheap labor or sexual exploitation.

This global problem is rampant because of many vulnerable populations in the society with a potential market. For instance, foster youth problems and the homeless populations are massive, which increases vulnerability (Ijadi-Maghsoodi, Cook, Barnert, Gaboian, & Bath, 2016). Also, the presence of the “LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer)” population, further fuels the problem, because these people are at an increased risk of victimization, homelessness, and social marginalization (Ijadi-Maghsoodi et al., 2016, p. 4). Furthermore, the rampant poverty and economic hardships are compelling people to seek job opportunities even in the face of adversity (Niewiarowska, 2015). As a result, human traffickers are taking this opportunity to explore the vulnerable populations by sufficing the demand for cheap and exploitative labor.

Signs and Resources for Patient Victims of Human Trafficking

Nurses can either observe or inquire for the signs of human trafficking through a detailed history and physical examinations. These professionals should recognize workplace restrictions and abuses, recruitment through false promises, lack of personal control of documents including the identification cards, and little or no payment for work (NHTRC, 2012). Other signs can manifest through behavioral or physical abnormalities in victims. Physical signs include malnutrition and dehydration, poor hygiene, injuries or illnesses secondary to unsafe water use or exposure to chemicals, lack of routine preventive and screening services, and untreated infections (NHTRC, 2012). Behaviorally, victims can present with anxiety, paranoia, inabilities to make independent decisions, increased irritability, and telling conflicting stories. The national resources include the NHTRC and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children among others (Ijadi-Maghsoodi et al., 2016). The local resources for these victims include the State Department of Justice and the local department against human trafficking.


The common behavior of human trafficking increases victim risks of health problems that nurses need to evaluate by examining and taking detailed histories to identify trafficking signs before providing the necessary help. This vice occurs in many places that can be classified based on either labor or sex purposes. Some of the signs of trafficking in victims comprise of the lack of or low payment for services, lack of control of identification documents, and so forth. Victims can also present with physical injuries and behavioral problems. Nurses can help their victim patients receive the required support from local and national resources.


Ijadi-Maghsoodi, R., Cook, M., Barnert, E. S., Gaboian, S., & Bath, E. (2016). Understanding and responding to the needs of commercially sexually exploited youth: Recommendations for the mental health provider. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 25(1), 107-122.

National Human Trafficking Resource Center [NHTRC] (2012). Recognizing and responding to human trafficking in a healthcare context. Web.

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Niewiarowska, K. B. (2015). A global study of human trafficking legislation: causes and effects. New York University. Web.

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