Survivor Advocates and Healthcare

I am a survivor of sex trafficking. I have lived experience that no one should ever go through. I know that many of us suffer pain and grief at deep levels. In my life, I have fallen between the cracks, been unseen, unnoticed and unidentified for the exploitation, abuse and many other issues that went on in my life. Like many other survivors what was happening to me, occurred in right in a normal community and even I had hoped someone would help me, no one ever did.

All of these experience make me a strong, resilient, brave person today. Today, I am part of a team that is working to educate healthcare providers. Many healthcare professionals once trained easily recognize the signs of human trafficking and identify many of their past patients as victims of human trafficking survivors. As the survivor advocate, I will respond when the healthcare team believes that they may have a case of human trafficking.

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What we know is that many victims/survivors of human trafficking will at some point access medical attention often for an injury that occurred. In the past, healthcare professionals were not trained to identify human trafficking and these individuals would simply be treated for their medical conditions but not the underlying condition of exploitation which brought them into the Emergency Department. However, with healthcare professionals now being equipped to identify and work with the individuals in a trauma-informed manner everything is changing.  As a result of this empowerment is helping to disrupt the cycle of exploitation. If the survivor feels like they can speak out to the healthcare professional and receive the assistance and choose to leave resources they will be provided a pathway to leaving their exploiter or trafficker in whatever form it takes.

As a survivor advocate, I am called to the hospital to work with the healthcare professionals and the survivor. I help them to know that they are not alone, that there is help out there and together we work out a plan to for what their next steps are. The survivors are often comforted to know they are not alone and that there will be someone who will assist them in the next steps. Furthermore, with individuals being identified by healthcare professionals during a potentially vulnerable time we are identifying more people and giving them the opportunity to choose to leave with resources.

During my victimization, if someone had offered to help me in a medical facility I may have taken the help especially when I was older. I am proud to be part of this work that is helping individuals exit human trafficking and begin a new life. Sometimes, we recognize how bad things were for us but then we look back and understand that we can’t leave the systems the way they were. We must go back help others who are in the same circumstance we were in. I am proud to turn back, reach in and be a hand to help those who are in a similar circumstance to what I was once in.

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