Taking on human trafficking through health education

Dean's Blog | January 25, 2021
Judith Karshmer

A new year is upon us and while many of us are ready to turn the page on an incredibly tough and tragic 2020 there is much work to be done. One clear reminder of this is the need for an entire month dedicated to the prevention of slavery and human trafficking. In 2010, January was declared National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

The exploitation of humans for sex and labor in the United States is a growing travesty that requires more eyes and strong voices to address it. The “see something, say something” mantra is important in helping victims escape enslavement. Acting upon signs of human trafficking has a ripple effect that could stop exploitation, begin the process of justice and healing for extremely vulnerable people, and build healthier communities.

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You may wonder what this has to do with a nursing college. Well, ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation offers a health-related class on the fundamentals of human trafficking. The elective is the inspiration of faculty member Samantha Calvin, an expert who is our pebble in the pond on the issue of addressing human trafficking.

Human trafficking courses typically are located in schools of social work. Calvin, who is not a nurse, created a class to be taught at Edson College based on her knowledge that most human-trafficking victims have contact with the health-care system. Nurses trained to know the signs of exploitation could initiate the end of enslavement of patients. Even if Edson College nursing students don’t get the opportunity to take Calvin’s class, they will all get some exposure to the topic when she delivers an overview as a guest lecturer.

Calvin’s first class in the fall of 2017 had nine students. Now the class is at capacity with 100 students, who are assigned to five local nonprofits addressing human trafficking. This semester her class has students with 19 different majors, including pre-nursing, criminology, business and health science. They will learn how to ask the right questions of people who are being trafficked, how to offer information about resources, and how to create a safety plan with someone if they’re not ready to attempt to exit that situation.

At Edson College, we know where we stand, and we’re proud of our commitment to be intentional in addressing this human rights issue.