Watch CBS News

Hospitals See Success With Programs Aimed At Spotting Sex Trafficking

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The red flags and warning signs of sex trafficking are right in their own emergency rooms. Now medical professionals are successfully spotting victims through new training developed in Sacramento.

"I'm incredibly happy with how the training has worked and the success we've seen," said Sacramento family physician Dr. Ron Chambers.

CBS13 first shared this Dignity Health program with viewers eight months ago, and we wanted to check in on its progress in combating human trafficking in the region.

Since our initial report aired in May, at least 10 human trafficking victims have been identified and saved through this training just at Dignity Health Methodist Hospital in South Sacramento alone, and dozens more system-wide.

"Our residents now routinely identify victims," said Dr. Chambers.

Chambers has helped develop specialized training that's being rolled out throughout 39 Dignity Health hospitals aimed at identifying human trafficking victims that come through their doors.

And that training is now turning into success stories.

"They are identifying them in the emergency room, in the labor and delivery unit; they have identified people in the ICU because we know the tattoos to look for," said Chambers.

According to a 2014 report from the Annals of Health Law, 88 percent of sex trafficking victims end up in ERs and clinics at some point while they're actively being trafficked.

"There are patients that we see now that when we look back in their charts, we know we missed them in the past," said Chambers.

Tattoos are some of the tell-tale signs physicians and medical staff are trained to spot.

"The physical exam can tell you a lot, women are unfortunately branded with tattoos, words, and symbols in prominent areas of the neck, and arm," said resident physician Tamar Stokelman.

Other parts of the training deal with recognizing certain mannerisms and behaviors.

"You may notice someone whose texting constantly during a genital exam, and that could be a control mechanism by their pimp or trafficker," said Chambers.

Since CBS13's last interview with Chambers, he has taken this training to eight other hospitals throughout California.

"The recent training I did was at St. Mary's in San Francisco, and in less than a week, they identified two victims, and they had never identified anyone before," he said.

And the success is not only in the training, but the quality of care that follows through Dignity's Safe Haven clinic where trafficking victims are treated as part of their road to recovery.

"We are trained in how to speak to them, how to have them open up to us, how to make them feel comfortable and safe," said resident physician Seema Shah.

More than 100 victims were taken care of in the clinic Justin this past year, painting a grim picture of how big of an epidemic this is right in our own backyards.

"Essentially we're all saving lives by being a part of this," said Shah.

"We need awareness, we need this model of care to spread, that's really what we're trying to do," said Chambers.

Chambers strives to spread this training to residency programs throughout the country.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.