UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) will hold the first Pennsylvania Rural Human Trafficking Summit on Oct. 29, at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center in State College, Pennsylvania.
The summit will focus on national and state efforts to address human trafficking, the law enforcement response to trafficking, and community and health care facility-based strategies and education to address trafficking.
According to the Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), approximately 40.3 million modern slaves are in service worldwide, with approximately 25 million being forced into labor and sex trafficking. It is estimated that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
Human trafficking is not just a global issue, but a local issue. Rural America, and rural Pennsylvania, are not immune to trafficking. According to data from the NHTH, 275 cases of human trafficking were reported in 2018 in Pennsylvania, ranking the state 11th in the nation for human trafficking.
Isolation, geography, and transportation routes that facilitate human trafficking in rural areas allow human trafficking to go undetected. The lack of economic opportunities in many rural areas also make individuals more vulnerable to trafficking. Education, awareness, and an understanding of local, state and federal resources are essential to identifying potential human trafficked individuals and assisting them in getting the help they need.
The October summit will feature a “surthriver,” a victim of human trafficking who was able to escape this modern day slavery. She will share her compelling journey into and through human trafficking and how she survived—and thrived. She now directs a human trafficking recovery program in northeastern Pennsylvania to aid others to escape the bonds of trafficking.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking.
Trauma caused by traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings. Language barriers, stigma, fear of their traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement frequently keep victims from seeking help, making human trafficking a hidden crime.
National estimates indicate that approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women, and health care providers are often the first professionals to have contact with trafficked women and girls. Nearly 50 percent of trafficked individuals saw a health care professional during their exploitation, putting health care providers and facilities on the front lines of identifying and potentially stopping human trafficking.
The summit is sponsored by PORH; the Region III Office of the Health Resources and Services Administration; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the Eastcentral and Northeast Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center; the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and the Governors Office of Homeland Security.
Registration and additional conference information can be found on the Rural Human Trafficking Summit website at cvent.com/d/z6qs99.
PORH formed in 1991 as a joint partnership between the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Penn State. The office is one of 50 state offices of rural health in the nation funded under a program administered by FORHP and is charged with being a source of coordination, technical assistance, networking, and partnership development.
PORH provides expertise in the areas of rural health, agricultural health and safety, and community and economic development. PORH is administratively housed in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State University Park.