The end of my first year at the University of Minnesota and the beginning of a beautiful summer.
This year has been so much more than I imagined it would be. I began my third year of college with a feeling it would be great to explore the field of medicine. I declared a major in biochemistry and a minor in public health. I started volunteering at Amplatz (University of Minnesota) Children’s Hospital, learning a lot about pediatric oncology. I have been beyond lucky to find myself in the Chair of Community Health position at the U’s Minnesota Medical Leader’s club and the events organizer position for the Undergraduate Public Health Association. I have been exploring the field through the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences Premed Scholars club and have submerged myself in studies.
I have also been attending these incredible Community Health Advocacy Talks with UMN’s urban research outreach center.
One CHAT talk I attended last week on sex trafficking in the Minneapolis area really struck me, reminding me of why I wanted to do all this to explore medicine in the first place. I had a frustrating “connect the dots” moment when learning about the sex-trade market, remembering a past friendship I had with a vulnerable young woman, who (from my hindsight view) may very well have been involved in the sex trafficking industry.
When I met Amanda, she was 17, a couple months pregnant, with a very tumultuous living situation. She was homeless at the time, but would scarcely stay in shelters, usually with the man she was with seeming to be in charge of where she would go each night. Each time I would see Amanda around the city of St. Cloud, I would always stop and talk to her, usually inviting her out to lunch with me. She usually would accept my invitation, but she always seemed quite paranoid, and would often have a “boyfriend” suddenly show up. Although the idea had crossed my mind of what might have been going on, I hate now how naïve I was and that I did not do more to intervene.
At the CHAT event, the researching professional noted the way the role of a medical professional intervening in a sex trafficking situation might be limited because of the same kind of “watch-out” guarding of a girl, such as in the case of a visit to the emergency room. It becomes so hard for a girl to feel safe enough to reach out for help when they are so guarded, beyond the dependence they are made to feel on their pimps or facilitators.
If medical professionals are able to learn about what a pimp or sex trafficking facilitator may look like, and what a sex trade victim may look like (since these people are generally good at keeping their underground market a secret), there is a chance we can save more young women from this injustice in our communities.
Doctors and nurses aren’t the only people that can be whistle blowers for the justice of women and girls (and boys) involved in sex trafficking. I was amazed by how much I had learned at this talk and how clearly I had missed warning signs screaming in my face, and I realized how much this really needs to be a thing we learn about more often among the general public and in schools.
Vulnerable teens get involved in the sex trade industry because they are not educated about the dangers and the tornado-like force the industry has, sucking them in (whether through facilitated drug dependency, physical force, violence, or other forces). The large amount of people even in our own neighborhoods paying for “prostitution service” (though I hate using that term, as it is almost always more like slavery) do not realize that these victims are usually not in control of what they do. The general public doesn’t have the necessary knowledge to whistle-blow when the warning signs are winking at them. And with all this, we can’t even get a question on Minnesota’s student survey about this illegal sex industry among teens because school districts want to “protect kids from exposure to such questions” (as if that is logical at all).
My recently found knowledge and reminiscence on my past naive experience around the sex trade has encouraged me in my hard work and studying to reach my goals as a medical doctor someday. I hope my readers find some encouragement as well to educate themselves and those around them on the topic of sex trafficking in our own communities.
Together, through the power of education, we can combat the sex trade industry in our communities.