RESPOND Exploitation

RESPOND Exploitation is a collaborative effort to identify and address exploitation of victims, with specific understandings of vulnerable populations.

  • Sex workers
  • Victims of trafficking
  • Children and youth
  • LGBTQ+
  • Elderly

What is Human Trafficking?

Human Trafficking is a significant human rights issue. There are more slaves now than at any point in history. Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that involves controlling a person through force fraud or coercion to exploit the victim. It is a multi billion dollar industry where more than 25 million victims are enslaved worldwide. Traffickers recruit, harbor or transport a victim in order to exploit them for labor, sexual exploitation or both. Traffickers can be anyone: males, females, a fellow classmate, friend, family, someone they met online, boy/girlfriend, pimps, gangs, employers, employers of domestic servants, small business owners and/or large factory owners. Traffickers use various methods to trap vulnerable individuals such as violence, threats fraud, coercion, blackmail, false promises, deception, manipulation and debt bondage. Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics including physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, confiscation of identification and money, isolation from friends and family and even remaining victims.

The best term to adequately include all forms of sex trafficking is commercial sexual exploitation. This can include girls that are trafficked, prostituted, pimped out, placed to work in strip clubs or forced into pornography or escort services.

More education needs to be done to parents, students, teachers, and various businesses such as airlines and hotel chains. Various recruitment tactics are used and they can be subtle. The victims can be groomed by being provided with expensive items. They are usually vulnerable youth and have emotional needs that will be filled such as spending time, giving compliments. Sometimes peer pressure is an easy way to pull a victim into the life. Blackmail is often used. They use pictures, personal information that is shared on social media or anything that may cause fear or embarrassment to the victims. Getting in trouble with parents or at school or law enforcement is often a fear that is used to pull the victim in as well.

Online recruitment through social media is the most frequent way that it happens. Traffickers are increasingly active on social media and children are extremely vulnerable due to their increased time online. Teens tend to over share. They post photos, give locations and share personal information such as cell phone numbers and home addresses. Apps are not only accessible through mobile phones but through many internet able devices such as a PC, tablets and gaming consoles. Traffickers and predators are masterful at deception and gaining trust online first before meeting in person. Noticing a change in behavior and sudden new groups of friends is key to start identifying red flags.


1 in 3 runaway youth are lured into prostitution within 48 hours

The average age of entry is 13 years old

Many victims are hidden in plain sight and/or they may not realize they are being exploited

The majority of child victims are trafficked through coercion, false promises and false job offers

76% of transactions for sex with underage girls are conducted via the internet

26% of victims are children

55% of victims are women and girls

Every 10 minutes a woman or child is trafficked into the U.S for forced labor

Human trafficking victims have been identified in all 50 states

Human trafficking victims come from all income levels even higher socioeconomic status

Human trafficking is a federal crime and is the 2nd largest criminal industry


How Does RESPOND Help Victims of Trafficking?

RESPOND aims to bridge the gap in medical forensic services for victims of trafficking and to bring education and awareness to communities. The medical forensic management of this population is crucial on two levels, first, they have immediate needs from an evidentiary standpoint and an exam by a trained and certified forensic nurse is essential. These immediate needs also include sexually transmitted infection, HIV and pregnancy prophylaxis as well as an overall physical assessment for their well being, looking for any other injuries and trauma. Strangulation is a huge factor with girls in the life because it is a lethal form of control that is used by both traffickers/pimps and Johns/customers.

Properly trained forensic nurses are vital to connecting victims with services provided by community partners and NGOs. RESPOND can provide education and tools to your communities and healthcare organizations. Secondly, victims of trafficking are at high risk for many long term medical issues, including gastrointestinal issues from poor nutrition, reproductive concerns, psychological issues, among many others. Connection to medical services and organizations we partner with can prevent long term implications from these ailments.


Impacting the Demand

The medical forensic exam provides the District Attorney's Office (DAO) with additional avenues to aid in prosecution.  The history obtained during the medical forensic exam, becomes a useful piece of evidence for the DAO as it is an exception to the hearsay rule because it is taken for the purpose of medical diagnosis and treatment. It is crucial to have specially trained forensic nurses to diagnose and treat this vulnerable population.

The medical forensic exam is both best practice for the patient and for prosecutorial efforts that benefit the patient and community. In many communities, medical forensic exams are only offered at specified area hospitals, which puts the victim in an uncomfortable emergency room environment. Oftentimes, victims and families have to wait in the ER for hours to be seen. And even after waiting, they are not guaranteed to be seen by a seasoned trauma informed nurse that has been specially trained to take care of the trafficking population. These victims are not the usual victims of sexual assault. They need specialty, individualized care. RESPOND aims to provide proper training and resources to promote the best care for victims.