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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Honors Via ChristiFor Innovative Human Trafficking Training

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Kansas

WICHITA, KAN. - Via Christi Health today received a special Community Service Award from U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom for its groundbreaking work training health care professionals to identify and assist victims of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is a crime that hides in plain sight,” Grissom said. “Via Christi Health is leading the nation by training its health care professionals to recognize warning signs and offer victims assistance that could save lives.”

Via Christi’s human trafficking initiative already has trained more than 125 physicians, nurses and other frontline caregivers with a four-step protocol on what to look for and how to help human trafficking victims. Videos of the training are available online at:   

“We are humbled and honored to receive this award,” said Jeff Korsmo, president and CEO of Via Christi Health. “Training our clinicians to recognize the warning signs of human trafficking so that we can help these victims is part of Via Christi’s mission to serve as a healing presence to the most vulnerable among us. The victims of this modern form of slavery need – and deserve – our help.”

Physicians, nurses and other health care workers are in a position to meet human trafficking victims who remain hidden from most of us. Victims may show up in emergency rooms seeking treatment for injuries, physical or sexual abuse and health problems. Whether they are being trafficked for commercial sex or other kinds of labor, they are most likely to seek help from health care professionals who recognize the warning signs and are trained in treating them as victims, not criminals.

Via Christi Health employees who received the award include: Nicole Ensminger, Sister Sherri Marie Kuhn, Joseph Akif, Tina Peck, Dr. Robert Stangl, Jennifer Rodgers, Kim Johnson, William “Skip” Hidlay, Deborah Wendt, Roz Hutchinson, Clint Schaefer, Tressie Maugans and Claire Hieger.

Grissom cited a report released earlier this month that was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice titled: “Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities.”

          The report looked at the underground commercial sex economy in Miami, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Denver, Kansas City, Mo., San Diego, Seattle and Atlanta, which it estimated in 2007 totaled as much as $290 million. The report concluded that different forms of coercion and fraud are used by pimps to recruit, manage and retain control over victims. These forms include feigning romantic interest, emphasizing mutual dependency between pimps and trafficking victims, discouraging victims from giving away “sex for free” and promising victims rewards and material comforts they never see. The number of cases of pimping and sex trafficking currently being investigated and prosecuted, the study concluded, represents only a small fraction of the underground commercial sex economy.

Updated December 15, 2014