LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — Human trafficking continues to be a big problem world wide with an estimated 21 million victims.
Experts report one and a half million victims in the United States, many of them being transported on Arkansas’s highways.
KARK 4’s Susanne Brunner shows us ow UAMS is educating people about the signs, and how to save a life.
Interstate 40. A busy stretch of highway through the natural state.
“We have a lot of coast to coast transportation of goods with 40 and 30, even 55 and that’s just not manufactured items or agricultural products,” said Melissa Easdon the director of the UAMS Emergency Department.
The unthinkable also happening on the very roads you’re driving on.
“Human lives, human trafficking victims are also transported from coast to coast,” said Easdon.
Easdon calls human trafficking, modern day slavery.
“Legally, it’s defined as the use of fraud, force or cohesion to compel labor or criminal sexual activity,” said Easdon.
She says bringing awareness to the problem, starts in healthcare.
Right now UAMS is partnering with others to teach nurses in the emergency department and women’s health how to recognize human trafficking, how to ask the right questions, and how to refer, report, and rescue.
Easdon said victims periodically show up to the hospital to get care.
“They have a lot of depression and mental health issues because of their life situation,” said Easdon.
Suicide, overdose, and illegal drug use are also common signs.
Easdon believes these are in many cases a way for them to cope with their terrible life situation.
Outside the hospital, Easdon recommends looking out for these signs.
“Individuals who are not allowed to speak for themselves. They will be accompanied by an individual who insists on answering all the questions for them. They’re very controlling,” said Easdon.
Also the victim may not carry their own ID or money. One of the most at risk groups in Arkansas is runaways.
“Research has shown runaways are typically approached within 48 hours by somebody who is involved in human trafficking,” said Easdon.
Easdon said the victim may show signs of poor medical care, and typically have a life span of only 7 years.