Northeastern University, New England Coalition Against Trafficking host conference on the warning signs of human trafficking

The first step to fighting human trafficking is the ability to spot when it’s happening. And, often, the people best positioned to identify when someone is the victim of human trafficking are the people who respond to emergency situations involving traffickers and their victims: emergency medical technicians, nurses, and nurse-practitioners among them.

Identifying someone who is caught in the web of a trafficking scheme requires an eye for nuanced details, says Amy Farrell, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern who studies human trafficking.

And too often, she says, emergency medical personnel haven’t been properly trained to identify these warning signs or to know what to do next if they see them.

“Because these are the people likely to see victims first, it’s crucial that they can recognize red flags when they see them,” Farrell says.

Recognizing when someone is being coerced is one red flag, Farrell says. Signs that someone other than the victim have control of the victim’s personal medical and identifying documents is another. But there are many more.

A conference hosted by the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern is a first step toward providing that training.

Provided by the Northeastern University School Health Academy and the New England Coalition Against Trafficking, the daylong conference will be held on Saturday, April 27, starting at 8 a.m.

The conference is designed to give healthcare providers and public safety officials some of the tools they need to stop human trafficking and care for its victims.

Farrell, who focuses her research on how the United States criminal justice system responds to human trafficking, will provide an overview of the federal and Massachusetts legal structures as they relate to human trafficking.

Kayse Lee Maass, an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern, will lead a discussion on the ways that industrial engineering can help stamp out human trafficking efforts.

Other speakers on Saturday include representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, lawyers, medical professionals, and survivors of human trafficking.

The conference will be held in the Raytheon Amphitheater in the Egan Research Center on Northeastern’s Boston campus. Registration for the conference closed Thursday, but a few seats may be available on the day of the conference. Contact event organizer Lindsay Hawthorne at for information.

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