Are doctors the key to cracking down on human trafficking? A local campaign says yes

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Fay Chelmow walks with purpose towards her car. Every trip she makes in the Richmond area is an opportunity to reach another person with a mission she holds close to her heart.

Chelmow, a registered nurse, knows there is detection through education.

She founded ImPACT Virginia, a campaign to fight human trafficking.

This month she is taking the effort from the streets and into hospitals and doctors’ offices for years to come.

Chelmow organized a free human trafficking education and training session at the VCU School of Medicine.

She says up to 88-percent of victims and survivors have some kind of interaction with a healthcare provider while they are being trafficked but are not identified.

“Unless you know the red flags, you’re not going to see it,” Chelmow explains. “So a lot of victims and survivors are falling through the cracks.”

She says the most common signs are scripted answers, or the trafficker will talk for them. People being trafficked are also often very attached to their cell phones.

“The trafficker wants to keep tabs on them, on what they say, what they do, where they are,” Chelmow describes the control the trafficker has.

Chelmow calls human trafficking a ‘big problem’ in the Richmond region for many reasons.

“The intersection of the highways. We have a ton of hotels and motels on the off ramps and on ramps. We have a mix of wealth and poverty. It’s a tourist attraction. We have military bases. We have access to air, sea and land.”

Next week’s training session is designed for medical professionals, but everyone is invited to attend.

Chelmow hopes to educate everyone from law enforcement to community leaders and residents on signs of human trafficking to fight it across the community.

“It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, so it’s not like we can arrest our way out of this. The only way we are going to stop this problem is to go upstream with prevention education.”

The free four-hour training session is March 14 from noon – 4 p.m. at the Hermes A. Kontos Medical Sciences Building, 1217 East Marshall Street in Richmond.

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