Public health expert prescribes community collaboration and education to prevent human trafficking

Dr. Analena Lunde

What happens after a case of human trafficking is discovered by authorities? Once a survivor is identified, numerous agencies become involved: from health and human service providers to law enforcement and the judicial system. Each agency brings various strengths to the table and it is helpful to have someone who can connect the dots to ensure coordinated support for a survivor. “I make sure the right people are at the table so we can wrap our arms around that trafficking survivor. We can help them with the healing process, as well as working with the justice side,” says Dr. Analena Lunde.

Lunde has been a nurse for over 20 years and is based on the west side of the state, working as a Forensic Nurse Examiner with the Central Dakota Forensic Nurse Examiners, a part of the Sexual Assault Response Team. She is also a Human Trafficking Navigator for Youthworks, a nonprofit that provides direct-services for runaway and homeless youth, and the North Dakota Human Trafficking Task Force, a collaborative team made up of law enforcement, prosecution, and service providers at federal, state, and local levels. The task force serves adults and youth; sex and labor trafficked individuals; and urban and rural communities across North Dakota. Analena says, “I’m in the community as someone who lives here, a service provider, as a clinician, and now as a navigator.”

Creating a connection is vital in Lunde’s line of work. Collaborative discussions and mutual respect between different agencies is required to build cases against traffickers. “In the world of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, you need to peel the layers back. What may seem one thing on the surface requires digging deeper and inspecting that case on all sides. The evidence isn’t always there immediately. You need patience to build that case and you need the right people to stay invested.”

Lunde, affectionately known as “Doc” by her colleagues, sees individual connections as just as important as agency-wide collaboration. “Our first concern is always the safety and mental health of the victim. Once we’ve met those immediate needs, we can move on to the technical part of an investigation. Human trafficking is a crime, but it’s also a public health issue.” An estimated 88% of trafficked victims will come into contact with a medical professional at some point, whether it’s for a routine dental check-up, or a more serious scenario. Only 5% of medical professionals feel they are adequately trained to recognize the signs that someone is being exploited. Lunde is currently working with the Dickinson State University Nursing Department to incorporate human trafficking training into their nursing program.

While training for professionals is important, educating communities is also essential to move forward with prevention of human trafficking. Lunde admits, “North Dakota is a little behind on prevention. The question is, where do we begin? Education should include families and age-appropriate information for kids, teenagers, college-age students, and adults and parents. These conversations need to happen at home and at schools, community centers, and church groups. A grassroots movement would help us see a shift in awareness.If parents are open to having discussions with their kids, or are willing to attend an educational session, they’re in a better position to help if something seems wrong. We’re moving in the right direction. The North Dakota Human Trafficking Task Force is doing a phenomenal job in bringing together professionals and making resources available.”

Lunde will be presenting at the upcoming Bakken Human Trafficking Summit at the Williston ARC on Thursday, June 17. The event is sponsored by 31:8 Project, a nonprofit dedicated to educating North Dakotans about the realities of human trafficking in the state. The summit is open to the public and will feature discussion groups on specialized topics, a town hall panel, and keynotes by several survivors of human trafficking. More information and tickets can be found at

Analena believes, “the people of North Dakota genuinely care for each other. The best protective factor is education and building up community. Know who your neighbors are and make sure your kids know who they can ask for help.” The Human Trafficking Hotline number is 1.800.373.7888 or you can text “HELP” to 233733.

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