Shining the Spotlight on Issue of Human Trafficking, Impacts on New York Communities

January is recognized as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, raising awareness of human trafficking -- defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.

One of the biggest misconceptions regarding human trafficking is that it only occurs in big cities or even outside of the United States. Kaylin Dawson, RN, SAFE Program Manager, knows that’s not true.

“It is right here in our area and the patients we work with,” Dawson says.

At Albany Medical Center, Dawson says forensic examiners are trained how to respond to victims of human trafficking, sexual violence and sexual assault. She’s specifically developed training to educate clinical staff on how to identify and address potential cases of human trafficking and how to provide trauma-informed care.

Dawson says Albany Medical Center forensic examiners have assisted trafficking victims and connected them with resources and organizations that can support them and help them to break away from a dangerous situation.

“When trafficking victims have an interaction in a health care setting, their chief complaints to medical professionals may not point directly to a trafficking situation,” Dawson says.

“As health care providers, we have to be vigilant of the signs, symptoms and common behaviors that lead us to ask additional questions and provide as many resources as possible.”

Dawson adds that because human trafficking victims are often told to not trust health care providers, they work to ensure that patients know that Albany Medical Center is a safe place for them now and in the future. Forensic examiners are available 24/7 at Albany Medical Center to provide services and resources to patients.

One resource in New York state designed to help young victims of human trafficking is the Safe Harbour: NY program. Statistics show more than 1,700 youth identified as a victim of human trafficking or at-risk from the latest statewide reporting data in 2020. 94 percent of those cases were reported outside of New York City. Dawson serves on the Safe Harbour Task Force for Albany County and knows that vigilance can make a huge impact.

The local task force is made up of government, health care, education, and nonprofit leaders who focus on topics ranging from public awareness and youth outreach to training and identifying needed services.

“Being educated on human trafficking is extremely important and could potentially save youth right here in our area,” Dawson says.

More information and resources are available through the following websites:

Blue Campaign

HEAL Network – Patient Resources

Polaris Project