Lee Health nurses learn how to spot victims of human trafficking

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The face of human trafficking is not easy to see — not even for health professionals. And less than one percent of human trafficking victims are ever identified.

Now, a group of nurses at Lee Health are working to find more victims, and get them the help they desperately need.

Christy Ivie knows firsthand what it’s like to be taken advantage of, “I was sexually exploited by my father.”

She survived that experience, and years later, works to help others trapped in similar situations, saying she won’t rest as long as she know there’s even one person trapped.

She founded “Christy’s Cause”, with the goal of eradicating child sex trafficking, and it’s one reason she’s working with these nurses at Lee Health.

“I don’t think we can ever doubt a nurse’s gut instinct.” Ivie said.

That’s why nurses from Lee Health gathered at Health Park to learn the warning signs and what they can do to help those victims.

“We do have victims who are here,” says Jennifer Wolff, who works in the emergency department. “It’s sad that it’s such a big issue in our world, nation, state and local area.”

She’s leading the effort to train her colleagues and get victims the help they need by knowing specific things to look for, and the specific questions to ask.

Wolff says one key to prevention, is being a proactive parent, “Other parents don’t always realize how social media is used as such a tool by people who are trying to do not nice things.”

The average age a teen enters sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14 years old, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But Ivie has a message for anyone feeling trapped, “Don’t underestimate that there are people in the community who want to help you.”

And that includes these nurses at Lee Health.

The nurses didn’t want to go into the specifics that they look for because They don’t want to tip-off the bad guys. But, generally, there are signs like poor hygiene or malnourished.

Victims may also not know where they are geographically or get anxious when you bring up law enforcement.

If you need help, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline online humantraffickinghotline.org or call 1 (888) 373-7888. You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.

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