Trafficking talk highlights local impact

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The Student Nurses Association on Thursday, Nov. 30, hosted Jessica Behmlander to give her presentation titled “Human Trafficking: What We Need To Know.”

Behmlander, a registered nurse and education specialist with Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, mainly focused on the importance of maintaining awareness of the issue at hand as well as discussing the various warning signs and red flags to look for as a healthcare professional to potentially identify a trafficked individual.

The event took place in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Behmlander was chosen by the Student Nurses Association in an attempt to help educate both fellow nursing students as well as the general public on the severity of the issue that is human trafficking. More specifically, Behmlander, being located in Saginaw, brought plenty of local stories to help drive home that this is a problem that occurs everywhere without much attention being drawn to it.

“It sickens me that these are people; it’s not just numbers,” Behmlander said. “It’s happening all around us. I know it can be a discouraging thing to see that, but it’s really important to be aware that it is going on.”

Though the event was open to the general public, the audience was mostly made up of nursing students. This coincided with the fact that Behmlander focused heavily on the roles of healthcare providers in identifying signs that patients are being trafficked as well as some helpful tips for when a potential trafficked individual is identified.

“When we do recognize the situation (the lecture explains), we learn how to offer those patients help,” said fourth-year nursing student and President of the Student Nurses Association Samantha McPherson. “Maybe even being prepared for them to be resistant to help just because of the situation.”

Behmlander explained that victims are very unlikely to explicitly lay out the details of the unfortunate situation they have found themselves in. Therefore, it is important to recognize the nonverbal cues common among victims. Some of those red flags include specific types of bruising, a quiet demeanor and unique tattoos that could potentially be a common “branding” technique among prostitution circles.

The lecture recognized the two types of trafficking, labor and sex, but mostly centered around the different stories and examples Behmlander provided of specifically sex trafficking victims locally.

“Every time (Behmlander) does this presentation, she gets a good turnout,” McPherson said. “It’s localized about the Tri-City area, so that makes it more applicable to students around here rather than just a general human trafficking presentation.”

Behmlander made it clear that there is no end to the problem in sight. As long as there is demand for it, there will always be a supply. However, Behmlander made the case that plenty can be done to help the victims unfortunate enough to become a part of it.