Many times, we may think that human trafficking takes place only on the other side of the world, but it happens everywhere. Now more than ever, human trafficking has become one of the biggest threats to many communities and is one the fastest growing illegal industries in the world.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, human trafficking is the industry of stealing individual freedom for profit. In some cases, people are tricked or forced into providing commercial sex; while others are manipulated or threatened into working in inhumane, unacceptable conditions. Whatever the case may be, an estimated 24.9 million people around the world are being trafficked, and the problem often goes unrecognized in healthcare.

That is why it’s important to recognize the warning signs of human trafficking. According to Homeland Security, the following are common indicators of someone who may need help:

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

Human trafficking can happen to anyone but is more targeted to people who recently relocated or migrated, those with substance abuse and mental health concerns and those who are runaway or homeless youth. These groups are more vulnerable to being trafficked and help account for the 8,800 cases reported each year.

With National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11, it’s important to address and talk about this issue. At UofL Health – Peace Hospital, we treat all aged patients who are victims and survivors of human trafficking. We also offer Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) examinations onsite at Peace Hospital. Additionally, we also recently added trafficking screening questions in our intake assessment to make it easier for patients to come forward about potential harm.

If you believe that you or another individual is a victim of human trafficking, please contact the U.S National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888, or visit their website at to learn more about human trafficking.

If you or a loved one need help, UofL Health – Peace Hospital’s Assessment and Referral Center offers no-charge assessments at 502-451-3333 or 800-451-3637. Or contact the 24-Hour Crisis and Information Center Line at 502-589-4313 or 800-221-0446.

In addition, UofL Health – SAFE Services screens for domestic violence and human trafficking, and provides SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) examinations at all of our seven ER locations. For more information, call 502-562-4064 or visit

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Article by: Kelly Gillooly, M.Ed., LCADC

Kelly Gillooly, M.Ed., LCADC, is the System Director of Behavioral Health at UofL Health – Peace Hospital. She is a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor. Kelly has worked in the behavioral health field for more than 25 years and has been with Peace Hospital since 2012.

All posts by Kelly Gillooly, M.Ed., LCADC
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