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Study Evaluates EMS Knowledge of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is increasingly recognized as a major human rights concern, but awareness of it can be lacking even among first responders. EMS professionals may have the opportunity to recognize and initiate intervention in some cases—but do they know what to look for and do?

That's the focus of a new study, "What Do EMS Professionals Know About Human Trafficking? An Exploratory Study," published in the Journal of Human Trafficking. The authors, led by Elizabeth Donnelly, an associate professor of social work at the University of Windsor in Ontario, also developed a free interactive resource to help train EMS providers on the subject. 

Donnelly's study "assessed the familiarity with and attitudes about trafficking in EMS professionals" by way of an anonymous online survey that asked whether respondents had previous trafficking training; if they endorsed certain myths related to trafficking; if they recognized indicators of trafficking; and gauged their awareness of how to report suspected trafficking.

Of 244 EMS professionals who completed the survey, less than half reported received training in human trafficking. Those who completed training were significantly less likely to endorse myths about trafficking and were able to identify indicators of trafficking more frequently. Previous training did not influence their preferred avenues for reporting trafficking.

To address the identified gaps, the authors provided a detailed description of training, including governmental data, myths about trafficking, warning signs, and suggestions for a trauma-informed approach to interacting with suspected victims. They operationalized these findings in their training tool, available through Florida State University

Providers who complete the training and score at least 80% on its concluding quiz will receive a certificate of training on the subject from FSU's Institute for Family Violence Studies. 


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