Human Trafficking Blog

Human Trafficking Training in Colorado: The First Step Towards Ending Exploitation

Human trafficking affects a wide range of individuals in our Colorado communities. Adults and children, foreign-nationals and U.S. citizens, and people of all genders have all been identified as survivors.

Colorado sits at a geographic crossroads and is accessible via an international airport and two major interstates; much of the state is used for agriculture, ranching, and tourism, necessitating seasonal or migrant workers; and Denver has a disproportionately large number of youth experiencing homelessness (Source: MDHI). “These circumstances may result in the exploitation of particularly vulnerable populations, including immigrants on temporary visas, refugees, and victims of domestic abuse or sexual violence,” says Kara Napolitano, Research & Training Manager at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. 

Because those who experience trafficking often come into the domain of professionals or community groups working in healthcare, child welfare, education, law enforcement, or victim services, training workers in these fields on how to recognize and respond to the signs of exploitation is crucial to ending this human rights violation and supporting survivors.

At the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, we offer human trafficking training in Colorado that covers how to identify human trafficking and potential victims, how to connect to local survivor support resources, and how to develop survivor-centric protocols. Kara Napolitano explains, “Our trainings explore the root causes of the crime of trafficking and the myriad of intersecting identities, vulnerabilities, and social and systemic inequalities that can lead to trafficking. They also help victim service providers and first responders to understand the behavioral cues of someone who has experienced the complex trauma that often accompanies a trafficking experience.” This understanding is key to recognizing and responding to the crime in its many forms. 

Explore why human trafficking training in Colorado is so important — and hear from some of the individuals we’ve trained on why this education matters in their field of work…

Did you know that healthcare workers have crucial points of contact with victims of human trafficking?

“Sex and labor trafficking victims can present with chronic or neglected conditions, as well as severe mental health consequences,” says Kara Napolitano. “Since traffickers exert near complete control over victims, points of contact with healthcare workers represent crucial opportunities for victim identification and intervention.” Our training provides tools for healthcare professionals to identify and provide effective and compassionate care for survivors of human trafficking. It also covers mandatory reporting rules and HIPAA considerations.

We began building our healthcare provider curriculum alongside our amazing partners at Denver Health and Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center back in 2018. We have now delivered it to over 10,000 healthcare providers in Colorado. Read how two Denver Health paramedics recently identified a trafficking situation and got someone out of danger, as a result of our training.

Did you know that children in the foster care system face an increased risk of being trafficked?

“Evidence suggests that children in the foster care system are overwhelmingly at greater risk of being trafficked than those who are not,” says Kara Napolitano. “Lack of a stable living situation, physical separation from family and friends, and emotional vulnerability are some of the factors that put them at greater risk. Human traffickers often prey upon desperation for inclusion and innocence to manipulate youth into exploitative situations.” Child welfare workers and the community groups, nonprofits, and child placement agencies they partner with are in position to intervene. 

Jenny Bender, Executive Director of Colorado CASA, shares her experience with an LCHT anti-trafficking training:

CASA Colorado logo“[Our training focused on] the vulnerabilities of our 4,500 CASA youth in the state, and the crossover between having been involved in the foster care and child welfare system and being trafficked. Of our CASA youth, some have already been trafficked and some are at risk of being trafficked when they emancipate the system. Hundreds of CASA volunteers and staff from around the state (18 CASA locations) have absolutely applied the training, mainly through awareness and identifying the risk factors. In our field of work, we can utilize community resources like the Hotline; and although CASA volunteers aren’t mandatory reporters, as defined in statute, we do everything we can to identify trafficking as child abuse and report it immediately.”

Black Hawk police car

Did you know that law enforcement often has the first point of contact with trafficking survivors?

Since patrol officers and troopers are often the first responders—and therefore the first point of contact with a trafficking survivor—it is vital that they can recognize these often nuanced situations so that they can bring in trained investigators to respond. Our training covers topics ranging from legal guidance to what type of data and evidence to collect and how to interview victims.

Kristina Mahoney, Advocate at Gilpin County Victim Services, reflects: 

“We live in a community with a vulnerable population where there is a high amount of tourism and the main industry for that tourism is casinos and hotels. Unfortunately, this industry is a draw for labor and sex trafficking. Our Victim Services office has and continues to provide resources and services for individuals who were identified as victims in trafficking crimes in Gilpin County. [Our biggest takeaway from our training with the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking was] seeing the real-life examples of how victims of trafficking are lured in. That trafficking is something that can affect many different people from all walks of life and that there is not always an ideal victim like the public may think. Many victims will look like people we meet and interact with every single day.”

Michelle Moriarty, Chief of Police for the City of Black Hawk, adds: 

“I wanted to educate our employees and the casinos and hotels about human trafficking and how to recognize it. The Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking has been a critical partner in helping us achieve these goals. When we partner, we can help make a difference in someone’s life. Human trafficking can happen anywhere and can be easy to hide. I also think the labor part of human trafficking can often be missed in society. As law enforcement, I hope to continue educating others and learning more.”

Did you know that direct service providers have a significant opportunity to intervene?

Training for direct service providers is tailored to address the intersection of human trafficking with the receiving agency’s work and the geographical area where they operate. Since these organizations often engage directly with survivors, they have a significant opportunity to intervene and provide assistance. LCHT provided several trainings over the course of 2021 to the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver, a nonprofit organization that offers services including shelter, food, and emergency assistance to thousands of people in need each year in several locations around the greater Denver area. 

Derek Garcia, Organizational Development & Training Specialist, says:

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver logo “We initially contacted [the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking] to schedule a couple of introductory courses. We didn’t realize this would result in at least 12 separate training sessions over a span of nine months, covering specific areas of impact as they relate to our agency. This curriculum greatly improved our knowledge and awareness of human trafficking in the Denver Metro area. Along with relaying important human trafficking information and statistics, Kara Napolitano’s ability to engage our learners made this a highly demanded curriculum in our agency. I highly recommend this training to any organization looking to better understand the impacts of human trafficking.”

Human trafficking training in Colorado is one piece of a multifaceted approach to addressing this complex problem. “I often tell people that training will not end human trafficking on its own, but it’s a great place to start,” says Kara Napolitano. By building a community-tailored, trauma-informed response to trafficking in Colorado with a social justice and oppression lens, cultivating sustainable partnerships, and filling the gaps in resources — we will ultimately provide better support for survivors and prevent more human trafficking cases in the future. 

Kara Napolitano reflects, “In communities that have embraced this message, we have seen a shift.” More calls are coming into Colorado’s 24/7 Human Trafficking Hotline from trained professionals seeking resources for survivors, more survivors are understanding their own lived experience of exploitation and calling in for support for themselves, and law enforcement agencies are increasingly partnering with local providers to offer support to vulnerable people.

Ideally, human trafficking training will become required for all law enforcement agencies, healthcare providers, and professionals working with systems-involved youth (currently, only child welfare case workers are required to obtain it, of the groups we train in Colorado). The more professionals who are properly trained to recognize trafficking, the less this crime and its consequences will go unnoticed. It’s the path towards building a more comprehensive and effective movement to end human trafficking. 

Interested in getting your organization, agency, or community group trained to identify and respond to threats of human trafficking? We’d love to work with you. Learn more about booking a training with the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking today.