Tell us about some of the training and education efforts that you’ve been involved in recently.
The Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT) receives training requests from a diverse range of professionals and community members including first responders, service providers, and community groups. Over the last two years, we’ve placed a greater focus on training and education for the child welfare and healthcare sectors in Colorado. Both sectors represent vital touchpoints with individuals experiencing exploitation.
What are some of the specific professional and community groups you’ve been training?
Since I joined the LCHT staff in late 2017, I have worked with our partners and allies in the child welfare and healthcare sectors, as well as survivors, to improve and tailor LCHT’s training curriculum. We’ve recently completed a second round of trainings for Denver Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). The goal was to equip their new volunteers with the tools to recognize and compassionately respond to youth who have been trafficked or are at high risk of being trafficked. In addition to these two groups, I have trained various school groups, faith-based organizations, and civic groups like the Rotary Club.
What about healthcare professionals? You’ve been focusing a lot of time there, too, right?
Yes. Since traffickers exert complete control over victims, points of contact with healthcare workers represent rare and crucial opportunities for victim identification and intervention. In 2015, the U.S. Congress passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act federally mandating the training of healthcare professionals to recognize and respond to trafficking victims. Though several pilot programs have been initiated across the country, very few organized initiatives exist in Colorado. Our healthcare partners in Denver have confirmed this gap exists.
This month we are finalizing and beginning to deliver a new healthcare curriculum that we developed in partnership with healthcare professionals and survivors. We’ll be initially training groups from Denver Health and Presbyterian-St. Lukes Medical Center. It’s been an honor to work with and learn from a diverse array of dedicated and experienced healthcare professionals including a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner), a trauma coordinator, a nurse educator, and an EMT. In addition to these experts, our team includes survivors of both labor and sex trafficking. One of these individuals has emerged from his trafficking experience to become a healthcare professional himself, in part with the hopes of potentially assisting others who may be experiencing trafficking.
How has the experience of developing anti-trafficking trainings been for you personally?
It has been both a humbling and incredibly informative process and I am so grateful to work with these individuals. They have helped me to modify my training style and delivery to cater to people who are already inundated with training requirements and time constraints. But more importantly, they have helped me to recognize the secondary trauma that professionals experience. It’s a reminder to deliver this type of training compassionately and with the respect these professionals deserve.
Have there been any surprises in facilitating training? What have you learned about yourself?
I leave every training with something new! Often, I am inspired by the work that individuals, communities, and sectors are doing with limited resources. More often than not, participants are taking extra time out of their already full schedules to educate themselves to be able to serve their clients better. That in and of itself is inspiring.
At each new training I open up the room to discuss difficult situations they’ve seen in the past. We dialogue about these examples as a group, which gives me insight into what these frontline professionals are actually dealing with on the ground. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in working alongside people from different disciplines and sectors is how much I still have to learn! Developing trainings in partnership with multidisciplinary lenses and a variety of lived experiences has helped to make the trainings themselves more effective and more well received. We are bridging gaps instead of functioning in silos and it is incredibly rewarding.
Why should people support this kind of anti-trafficking training?
The bottom line is that when first responders, service providers, or healthcare workers are not aware that human trafficking is occurring in their communities, victims fall through the proverbial cracks and don’t receive the support they need. Education is one of the most effective means to prevent exploitation and it is key to strengthening the anti-trafficking movement in Colorado and beyond. LCHT has shared this knowledge with over 27,000 professionals and community members from diverse backgrounds. The work is only carried forward through community support.