Health Workers Fighting Human Trafficking

nurseNurses and Doctors see many patients as they work their shifts at hospitals.  In the process, they may encounter suspicious activities.  EMTs are also on the lookout while on their emergency runs.

Some signs health workers pick up on to cue them in on a probable victim of human trafficking is when a patient isn’t answering questions directed to them (someone else answers for them), They have no access to their health insurance documents (someone else has them), they have bruises on areas of their body, trauma to their more private areas, hair missing, the way they may be dressed, if the location where a person is taken into an emergency vehicle in could seem inadequate and questionable, they don’t seem to know which city they are located in, or they may seem to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There are nurses who have a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) certification and stay on the lookout for victims of human trafficking.  Michelle Markie of Maine has encountered about 3 victims of human trafficking per year at the hospital in Bangor where she works.  She will do her best to get the patient alone to ask questions such as, “Where do you live? Are you safe? Are you able to leave the person who is with you if you wanted to? Where do you sleep at night?” Other questions would be, “Are you being threatened? Could you leave your job if you wanted to?”

If it is confirmed there is trouble in the life of the victim, the nurses are able to get them help.  They will relocate them privately without acknowledging the trafficker who may be keeping a close watch on the room or person being treated.  One way nurses try to get them alone to talk to them is by bringing them to a bathroom or using creative excuses to get them alone, though this can be hard because a nurse cannot be forceful.  They can get a crisis help worker or even the police to come in, depending on the victim’s decision to involve them.

Last year a patient was known for having a GPS tracking device in their body when it was found through an X-ray picture.  It turned out that this was a woman being trafficked for sex.  The quick response of nurses brought help to this victim (the device was also removed).

The SAFE nurses often go to local teen shelters to talk about human trafficking since they are often targeted by traffickers there.  Nurses like Michelle Markie also volunteer to help at sex trafficking victim recovery programs.  She offers life skills while building confidence in victims’ lives so they can thrive.

There is an organization called Nurses Against Trafficking.  They state that 88% of sex trafficking victims come in contact with a nurse at some point.  They work to equip and bring together nurses to continue helping those who may be victims.

Another organization is HEAL, filled with professional health workers of varying types who are working together by helping identify and reaching out to victims of human trafficking they come across while doing their jobs.

We are thankful for the dedication of all these health workers who are doing their best to help those who might be victims of human trafficking!

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