Human trafficking battle moves to the ER

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by MARCUS MOORE

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WFAA

Posted on July 25, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 25 at 10:33 PM

FORT WORTH — A doctor at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth says human trafficking is a serious problem — and that it is growing.

But medical professionals can be on the front line of defense.

"The key is: If you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t ever know," says Dr. Sophia Grant, a physician who works with child sex abuse victims. Grant says many trafficking victims are children younger than 14.

"It’s a $32 billion a year business in the United States," she added.

Now, in a first-of-its-kind effort, she’s working to educate medical professionals about the signs of human trafficking among patients.

“My goal here at Cook Children's hospital is to try and train medical professionals, people on our front line, what to look for in a victim of trafficking,” Grant said.

Until now, there has never been a unified effort to do that in our hospitals. Grant says the impact can be significant.

Within the past six months, they’ve identified seven children who showed signs of being trafficked.

A few of the clues:

  • drug use
  • repeated medical treatment for unexplained injuries
  • infections and distinct tattoos

"It strips the identity of the child, and it makes that child know, 'You are my property,'" Grant explained.

She is working to educate emergency room nurses and others at the hospital to spot the signs, and hopefully make a difference in growing and very disturbing trend.

E-mail mmoore@wfaa.com

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