Drug Abuse and Human Trafficking Are Intertwined, BCAT Speaker Says
Drug addiction and human trafficking all too often go hand in hand, according to Renee M. Calhoun, Clinical Supervisor of Bucks County’s Drug and Alcohol Commission. Calhoun was featured speaker at the Jan. 16 BCAT meeting at Doylestown Mennonite Church. Drugs are involved in a number of ways, she explained:
- A family member or adult sex trafficker may sell his/her family member for drugs, which have likely already been in the home before trafficking takes place.
- Spouses and intimate partners often compel their partners to engaged in prostitution in order to “help” the family or support familial addiction.
- Pimps often lure sex trafficking victims via drugs and use drugs to control, punish and reward victims.
- Labor traffickers use similar tactics to recruit and hold on to vulnerable people. Notable examples are networks that use children to beg and door-to-door sales crews.
The Drug and Alcohol Commission uses a number of approaches to serve survivors of trafficking. In their assessments of potential victims, health care providers look for signs of control, isolation, financial and drug dependence and more, Calhoun said. Victims are routinely asked (and should be by all alert providers) if they’ve exchanged sex for money or drugs or been asked to; whether they are being “watched” by another person; whether victims have any control over or access to money; and more. However, barriers exist for health care providers, she noted, not the least of which are lack of awareness among medical staff, physical health issues that are more immediate, patient noncompliance with treatment, fear of retribution and arrest, and shame and hopelessness.
“In helping victims of human trafficking, its critical to partner with substance abuse programs,” said NOVA’s Kathy Bennett. “We are fortunate to have members of the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, as well as various providers, who are not only sensitive about the issue of human trafficking, but want to work with us to meet the needs of victms.”