Addressing the Knowledge Gap


Jeffrey Barrows, D.O., M.A. (Bioethics), Director of U.S. Training, and Emma Cotterill, LLM (Human Rights), Director of UK Training, discuss the need for greater levels of awareness and specialized education amongst frontline professionals and how Hope for Justice is working to meet that need.

NOTE: A frontline professional is anyone working in an industry that may come into contact with victims of human trafficking.


Why is training key to ending slavery?

JB:            We can’t find and free victims until we identify them. Let’s look at healthcare as an example: a recent study in the U.S. documented that almost 88% of victims of domestic sex trafficking encounter a healthcare professional while they are being trafficked (i). Another small study found that 50% of victims of international trafficking encountered healthcare services while being trafficked (ii). Unfortunately, none of those victims were freed as a result of their encounter with healthcare personnel because the staff failed to identify them as victims. Research has documented that less than 5% of healthcare professionals have been formally trained to recognize victims of human trafficking (iii). We have a long way to go.

EC:           In contrast to the days of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, people today are simply not aware that human trafficking is happening. Sometimes, on our doorstep. There are an estimated 10,000-13,000 modern day slaves in the UK at any one time (iv). By providing key professionals – law enforcement, social services, local authorities and charitable organizations – with training, we are improving their skills in identifying victims and treating them in the way they deserve. In the UK, where we have Investigation Teams, we are also expanding the reach of Hope for Justice into communities where victims may live, opening channels to receive information that could lead to their rescue. Training is a means to an end; the end of human trafficking for an individual, a family, a neighborhood, for our generation.

Who is Hope for Justice training? Why?

EC:           Our training strategy in the UK is two-fold. Firstly, we train professionals like the police and social services, providing specialist knowledge and ensuring that they are able to identify the victims they encounter, enter them into the Government’s National Referral Mechanism (which opens up support services) and recognize criminal offenses. Secondly, we train charitable organizations that meet vulnerable people every day so that their staff can identify the indicators of trafficking and understand how to refer a client that they suspect may be trafficked to Hope for Justice. A team of our Investigators can then be called out to go and meet the potential victims, establish if they have been trafficked and oversee their entry into the UK National Referral Mechanism.

JB:           We believe that after law enforcement, workers within the healthcare profession are a priority for training. In the US we’re focussing specifically on healthcare workers within Emergency Room settings including intake workers, triage nurses, trauma nurses and physicians. Healthcare professionals who work in women’s clinics, free clinics and abortion clinics are another key group;

this may be the only time that victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation exit an environment controlled by their trafficker.

Why doesn’t Hope for Justice just tackle trafficking itself?

EC:           Hope for Justice combats trafficking with Rescue, Advocacy and Restoration programs globally but no organization can solve the problem of modern day slavery alone. There are many skilled and dedicated people out there doing a whole variety of frontline jobs day after day. Equipping them to be able to recognize and handle cases of human trafficking in their post is much more effective than any one organization trying to be all things to all people. The focus of our training is on enhancing the existing skills and utilizing the existing networks of each professional; the overall model of Hope for Justice is to stand in the gaps between services and victims, acting as a bridge.

What response do we get from the attendees on the subjects we cover at training sessions?

EC:           The majority of the participants that we train have heard something about human trafficking previously but mistakenly believe that it isn’t something that they have or ever will encounter. After we cover the basics of what human trafficking is and how to recognize it, there is often a shift in atmosphere across the room.

Participants realize they may have already come across a victim themselves or else the case studies we share give them pause to think that, in their role, they might well come across trafficking in the future.

All participants go away from the sessions with greater understanding and a crucial ‘toolkit’ of knowledge and experience in applying that knowledge to example case studies. For some there’s a change in attitude as well.

JB:            After the vast majority of sessions, I hear comments from participants that they had no idea trafficking was occurring and many are reminded of past patients who fit the profile I’ve described. Especially those healthcare professionals who have been in practice for many years, often tell me that they know they have missed victims and are very thankful for the training. We’re not interested in reproaching any hard-working professionals; we’re just looking to resource them for the future.

What results do we see after the sessions?

EC:        In the UK, we’ve seen improved partnership working in particular with police, but also with other charitable organizations and local authorities. In the first 14 weeks of 2015 Hope for Justice has already trained 2,621 frontline professionals in the UK, focussing particularly on the police and local authorities. Following training of this type, we see an increase in the number of referrals to Hope for Justice, and in requests for our specialists to assist the police on major operations.

JB:         This is something that we are just beginning to study in the US through the use of pre- and post-training testing. As well as collecting this information we’re gathering data on how many victims are identified in the 3 months following training. We want to continue developing our training to be evidence-based and cover a curriculum that is proven to achieve our educational goals. However, there is very little current data on what a model human trafficking training curriculum should contain. So we pioneer our programs based on the first hand experience of our investigators, lawyers and survivor support staff around the world. In the US, we’ve trained 800 healthcare professionals since the start of 2015.

To inquire about training for your organization


[i] Lederer, L. and Wetzel, C.A. “The Health Consequences of Sex Trafficking and Their Implications for Identifying Victims in Healthcare Facilities”. (2014)

The Annals of Health Law 23:1. 61-91.

[ii] Baldwin, SB, Eisenman DP, Sayles JN et al. “Identification of Human Trafficking Victims in Healthcare Settings”.
Health and Human Rights (2011) (13) 1:1-14.

[iii] Chisholm-Straker, M., Richardson, LD., and Cossio, T. “Combating Slavery in the 21st century: The role of emergency medicine.” (2012)
J Healthcare for Poor and Underserved 23:980-987.

[iv] UK Home Office “Modern Slavery: An Application of Multiple Systems Estimation”. (2014)