CommonSpirit Health Foundation Spotlight

Human Trafficking and the Intersections of Domestic and Interpersonal Violence

Chicago, Ill. (October 25, 2021) – Twenty one years ago on a fall day in Washington D.C., the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was signed into law on October 28, 2000. This landmark moment was the first time in our nation’s history that we had federally defined the issue of human trafficking. From that day forward, the counter-trafficking movement began to galvanize. Though this work required new research and innovation, much of the foundational knowledge that helped build this field came on the heels of those who have been combating domestic violence / intimate partner violence since the 1980s. This October, we commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) by recalibrating our understanding of how various forms of violence, including domestic and interpersonal violence, intersect with labor and sex trafficking.

An award-winning journalist and survivor of labor trafficking, Bukola Oriola’s story of resilience is one of many that inspire us to continue looking beyond the surface. Her first book, Imprisoned: The Travails of a Trafficked Victim, recounts Oriola’s personal experience with domestic violence and labor trafficking as an undocumented immigrant, forced into marriage. Her husband at the time was her exploiter. Each page of her memoir vividly illustrates how cultural differences became barriers to seeking safety, in addition to the methods of control her trafficker utilized. In this important piece, Oriola also candidly describes her interactions with healthcare and how one healthcare worker helped her escape to safety.

Bukola’s story is one example of how victims of violence interact with healthcare, and how providers and staff can be part of the solution. As healthcare professionals, we have a unique opportunity to prevent and respond to all types of violence, including domestic violence, interpersonal violence, and human trafficking. To learn more about CommonSpirit’s community-based violence prevention model, please review this self-study resource guide. To learn more about CommonSpirit’s resources, including victim outreach posters and patient education brochures, to identify and assist patients who may be at risk of violence, please visit

To become a pathway to safety, we must see the human being behind each story and expand our lens to recognize that violence is multidimensional. For example, there are resources specifically created to protect foreign national victims of trafficking, such as the T-visa. If a foreign national victim is assessed strictly for domestic violence, then this person could lose access to vital resources available to victims of human trafficking. Furthermore, to fully live out CommonSpirit’s mission to advance social justice for all, we must also prepare ourselves to serve people from all walks of life. Whether it’s reviewing internal language access protocols or fostering partnerships with local agencies committed to advancing equity for marginalized communities, we all hold a significant role in putting our values into action.