CMDATodayFall2023 Trafficking

Healthcare Response to Human Trafficking

The passage of Scripture that cemented my love for the Lord, and certainly helped me understand His love for us, is found in Luke 4:18. Reading from a passage originally found in Isaiah, Jesus stands in the synagogue and declares, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach

by Ashleigh S. Chapman, JD

The passage of Scripture that cemented my love for the Lord, and certainly helped me understand His love for us, is found in Luke 4:18. Reading from a passage originally found in Isaiah, Jesus stands in the synagogue and declares, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (KJV). It also served as a roadmap for the rest of my life, and I believe it is a roadmap for us all.

I read that scripture for the first time when I was 11 years old, during a season when my family took into our care three children who had experienced nearly every form of abuse and neglect. That scripture and their experience led me down the path of becoming a human rights lawyer dedicated to the cause of ending human trafficking and protecting vulnerable populations. A calling that has led to engaging alongside thousands of frontline professionals in hundreds of communities across the United States (and on every continent except Antarctica), building and deploying solutions like Justice U™[1] and Engage Together[2] [3]to equip every person in a position to make a difference, and working every day to catalyze communities to work in better ways together to end and prevent it.

If I had to choose just one group of people to train in every rural or urban city we go to, it would be you—the healthcare community. In the past five years, human trafficking has increased by 25 percent, impacting over 50 million souls worldwide and present in every state in our nation. In the United States, human trafficking has been officially designated a public health crisis. No community is immune. But who in every community is in the best position to recognize and respond to it? The answer is the healthcare professional. Why? Because research has shown that up to 88 percent of human trafficking victims present themselves to healthcare settings during the time of their exploitation, many between 15 to 18 times, without being properly identified, and as a result, continue to be trafficked. Let that sink in—and let it be a rally cry to action.

Consider the inverse. If every healthcare professional in every community were to get equipped to know how to identify labor and sex trafficking in their local healthcare setting and know how to coordinate care in their local communities for individuals impacted by it…88 percent of victims would be victims no more. It’s why our team is working so hard to equip healthcare professionals everywhere, and why we’re so grateful that Christian Medical & Dental Associations has made human trafficking a missional priority. We are looking forward to working together in the coming months ahead to strengthen that effort. But right now, at this very moment, there are people in your community who need your help. So how do you get equipped—today—to make a difference? Here are three simple steps you can take that will make an immediate impact.

First, take time to get personally educated. Human trafficking is a complex issue impacting every possible demographic and it takes many different forms. So, you’ll need to take a moment to better understand it, to learn the indicators you are likely to see as a healthcare professional, the protocols you’ll need to establish in your particular healthcare setting, and the partnerships you’ll want to bridge in your local community.  You can learn all that and more (and earn accredited continuing education units or credits too) through the Healthcare Response to Human Trafficking online course series available at

Second, implement the knowledge you gain. Share it with others in your organization and community. Make sure that you are ready for the moment—not if, but when—an individual who is experiencing this level of exploitation enters your healthcare setting. Remember that human trafficking is a complex trauma, for many, the result of compounding vulnerabilities in their lives. In fact, survivors of trafficking report 10 or more concurrent mental, physical and sexual health conditions related to their exploitation. Many victims do not know they are “human trafficking victims” at all, though they do know what they are experiencing. All these realities create a challenge to identification. So, it will be up to you to look beyond the surface and see what may be truly happening, and to activate a response that is both trauma-informed in the moment and connected with others in your community for long-term care and support too.

Third, think about all the other hats you wear in your community too. If you are a parent, educator, church member, civic club leader, community volunteer or healthcare professional—every one of these roles presents unique opportunities to make a difference. We’ve gathered some of the very best information, resources, ideas, action kit and more to help you understand all the ways you can begin to engage in your local community to identify trafficking, care for those impacted by it and prevent it from ever happening in the first place by wrapping around those vulnerable to trafficking in your community. Check it all out today at Be sure to share it with others in your network too.

Lastly, our teams at Justice U™ and Engage Together are at the ready to help you navigate next steps should you ever need it. We’re working hard even now with healthcare partners across the nation to test and launch innovative tools in local healthcare settings to increase identifications, improve care and outcomes, and accelerate impact. If you’d like more information about these efforts, or you’d like to discuss ideas you have about how best to equip your local healthcare community, knock on our door anytime at

So, let’s every one of us be about our Father’s business in this world. Let’s walk out the mission Jesus himself laid out in Luke 4:18 in our local communities. After more than 20 years in the field, what I know to be true is this: Human trafficking does not have to exist in our world today. But it will take a world of people to end it—including and especially you. Every one of us can make a significant impact, and when we work together, miracles happen.

About the Author

Ashleigh S. Chapman, JD is a human rights lawyer, social entrepreneur, and one of USA Today's Women of the Year. Ashleigh has spent more than 20 years building solutions in education, business, legal, nonprofit, government, healthcare and community sectors—on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Ashleigh presently serves as the President of AFRJ, a global humanitarian aid organization that exists to end human trafficking, and as the Founder/CEO of Altus™, a business for good that powers social justice solutions, including Engage Together (which strengthens community engagement) and Justice U™ (which equips justice advocates). Prior to Altus and the AFRJ, Ashleigh served as the co-founder and Director of the Center for Global Justice at Regent University School of Law, the Director of a non-profit serving thousands of at-risk youth, a children's pastor; and a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with her Juris Doctorate from Regent University School of Law, receiving the faculty's Most Outstanding Graduate award, and Summa Cum Laude with her B.S. from Tennessee Technological University.


Ashleigh will be a featured speaker at CMDA’s 2024 National Convention in Black Mountain, North Carolina, May 2-4, 2024. To learn more or to register for the event, visit