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Founded Year

1867

About West Virginia University

West Virginia University is a public research university in Morgantown, WV. It was founded in 1867.

West Virginia University Headquarter Location

PO Box 6201

Morgantown, West Virginia, 26506,

United States

304-293-0111

Latest West Virginia University News

Mobile App Will Help Identify Victims of Sex Trafficking

Nov 28, 2021

December 03, 2019 Misuse, dependency, death—just a few consequences of the opioid epidemic the United States has been facing the past few years. Now, a researcher at West Virginia University is calling attention to one of the lesser known elements of the epidemic—child sex trafficking. “Trafficking is often done to fuel someone’s illicit drug habit,” Amie Ashcraft, Ph.D., M.P.H, director of research for the Department of Family Medicine, told Forensic. “In West Virginia, we’ve only recently started appreciating that it’s happening here.” Understandably, training to spot and respond to signs of human trafficking in West Virginia has largely been focused on law enforcement to date. While that’s great, Ashcraft says the need to disperse this information to a larger net is imperative. “There is a great deal of ignorance, misunderstanding, and misinformation on the topic and the need for accurate information is widespread,” she said. For example, many people equate trafficking with kidnapping victims and moving them across states and borders. In actuality, sex trafficking occurs anytime on person sells another. In rural areas, the majority of cases occur when child are trafficked by people they know to make a profit or barter for something illegal, such as opioids. That’s why Ashcraft (in collaboration with Tamara Kuhn and Pamela Anderson) is developing an app to train key personnel in rural areas on how to identify and report sex trafficking. The first prototype of the mobile app, called SexEx Rural, will focus on training for public school personnel and county health department staff. “We started with healthcare and educational service providers because many child victims are likely to be seen by a healthcare provider and to continue attending school in the months before they are rescued,” explained Ashcraft. At the county health department, all frontline staff will be receiving training, which includes anyone interacting with patients or clients directly, such as the staff conducting intake and registration, healthcare providers, and WIC staff. Phase I of the project is funded for one year (until Oct. 1, 2020) and is focused on building the prototype of the app, content, usability testing and pilot testing. Right now, Ashcraft and her colleagues are developing the educational modules for the app, with input from trafficking survivors, educators, healthcare providers and members of the West Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. The prototype will include audio narration, video clips, real-world examples trafficking, learning exercises and interactive quizzes. Student actors, directors and videographers will create interactive scenes representing potential trafficking scenarios for school and health department personnel to practice their identification skills. “We are doing a great deal of formative research that includes interviews with exploitation and trafficking experts and rural professionals across the country to explore state and regional issues related to trafficking, as well as resources for victims. Our app will allow users to add resources to the resource center to keep it current,” said Ashcraft. The resource center will also include local phone numbers for rape and domestic violence crisis centers, first responders and crisis hotlines. Assuming all goes well in Phase I, funding for Phase II would include building and testing the full app, customized with interactive multimedia training. Ashcraft anticipates a launch date of late 2022/early 2023 for the app within West Virginia. At the moment, there is not an “easy” way to expand the app from West Virginia to the entire U.S., but Ashcraft does understand the need for scalability in the future. “While the opioid epidemic is certainly fueling trafficking at present, it’s only one contributor. This was a problem long before the opioid epidemic, but is receiving much more attention and funding recently due to it. We want to take advantage of this increased attention to spread critical information on this urgent public health issue,” said Ashcraft.

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West Virginia University Patents

West Virginia University has filed 132 patents.

The 3 most popular patent topics include:

  • Industrial gases
  • Chemical processes
  • Carbon forms
patents chart

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5/14/2019

8/24/2021

Alzheimer's disease, Transcription factors, Ion channels, Rare diseases, Psychiatric diagnosis

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8/24/2021

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Related Topics

Alzheimer's disease, Transcription factors, Ion channels, Rare diseases, Psychiatric diagnosis

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Status

Grant

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