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BCH Nurse Educator Works to Stem Human Trafficking in Our Community

What is Human Trafficking Infographic

Child Sex Trafficking Infographic

Who is Being Trafficked Infographic

Human trafficking is an insidious problem in our county, our state, and our community. It’s a difficult issue to talk about, but that is what BCH Clinical Nurse Educator Chris Hendricks, R.N. is asking members of the community and health care providers to do.

Hendricks is working to try to stop human trafficking and sexual exploitation of adults and children in our community.

“If we can rescue even one victim, it’ll be worth it,” said Hendricks, who is representing Boulder Community Health in a community-wide multi-disciplinary group trying to stop human trafficking in our area.

The group includes representatives from Boulder Community Health, the Boulder Police Department, The Boulder DA office, Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA), non-profits, and others.

Their goal? To ensure our community is aware of human trafficking and to call 911 if they see something suspicious.

“Human trafficking is more widespread in Colorado and even in our area than people think,” Hendricks said.

Human trafficking refers to people being forced to do work, including commercial sex acts, by coercion, force, or trickery. Teenage runaways are the most at risk. They don’t have the ability to seek work as a minor, so they are often targeted by traffickers and comply as a way to survive.

Traffickers are experts at manipulating these often naïve youths. This affects both boys and girls. Once a youth is recruited traffickers use enticements, threats, or outright force to keep the victim ensnared.

Although the most recent Colorado Human Trafficking Council estimates that Colorado had 93 cases of human trafficking reported in 2015, victims advocates argue that number doesn't scratch the surface of how many victims there are. Since January, 2017, child welfare agencies in Colorado have received 139 reports concerning child sex trafficking. This is a very difficult crime to detect and to prosecute. Hendricks said at least one local Boulder restaurant was involved in human trafficking for labor purposes.

Last month, the state of Colorado was given a $1.4 million grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, to combat human trafficking and to provide services to victims. The grant will help human services and the Colorado Department of Public Safety to develop a joint, comprehensive strategy to battle human trafficking in the state, and help provide recovery services to child victims and survivors.

Hendricks and his team have provided training to BCH’s Emergency Department staff, including this video, and are asking health care providers to be alert to patients, including children, coming in with specific complaints that could point to a case of human trafficking.

Some signs of trafficking include; working overly long hours without compensation, overt sexual behavior in minors, lack of normal pay practices or safety equipment.

"Sometimes you can just tell something isn’t right," Hendricks said.

The group is asking members of the community to be aware of anything suspicious, and if you see something, call 911. Trafficking is illegal for all ages, and if it involves a minor it is child abuse.

Members of the public who suspect child abuse, including sex trafficking, are asked to call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-844-264-5437 (CO4-KIDS).