Paramedics help sex trafficking victims - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Paramedics help sex trafficking victims

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A 17-year-old victim of sex trafficking tells a chilling tale of beatings and abuse by her pimp, but, like many women forced to sell their bodies, "Dee Dee" said she was reluctant to seek medical attention out of fear of further beatings or being arrested by the police.

"I was beaten so bad to the point where I had a concussion," said "Dee Dee," whose name was changed to protect her identity. "I blacked out and I have a ding on the back of my head because of that beating. I knew I needed help, but I couldn't get it."

Dee Dee recounted her story to dozens of Oahu paramedics yesterday as part of a new training program to reach out to women victimized by trafficking abuse.

For the past several months, the city has required all of its paramedics to attend this 90-minute course so that they can better recognize the tell-tale signs of trafficking abuse, a problem experts say is more widespread than many people think.

"We've learned that they are so afraid of being caught by their pimps and by the law that they are not very responsive to our help, and turned us away more often than not," said Kelly Yamamoto, a district chief with the City & County of Honolulu's Emergency Medical Services.

The training sessions were conducted by Kathryn Xian, who is executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. Xian said that when compared to Mainland cities, Honolulu has a higher proportion of women at risk of being forced into sex trafficking.

She said the average age of entry is 13 and most of the girls are physically coerced.

"Human trafficking, because it is an underground industry, is highly ignored, and yet the problem of both sex and labor trafficking in Hawaii is quite significant," Xian said.

Emergency workers put this training to good use over the past weekend, when they rescued a 20 year-old woman who was beaten in Makiki. The woman was placed in a shelter before she could be discovered by pimps.

Meanwhile, "Dee Dee," the woman who was forced into sex trafficking, is turning her life around.

She recently received her high school diploma and will soon start a new job with a local company. "Dee Dee" also says she's hopeful this new program will help other women.

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