Myth: Human Trafficking is a violent crime that almost always leaves victims/survivors with physical injuries.
Reality: Human Trafficking may involve physical violence, but more often traffickers use elements of psychological coercion, emotional abuse, exploitation of vulnerabilities and fear based control to lure and entrap victims into being trafficked.
Myth: A Healthcare provider can identify a Human Trafficking victim/survivor just by looking at them.
Reality: A physical assessment may reveal clues based on suspicious injuries. However, healthcare providers typically rely on a variety of screening tools that use direct questions, medical history, and disclosures to identify red flags that indicate Human Trafficking may be present.
Myth: Life threatening injuries, broken bones, bruises, and severe genital injuries are the main types of physical harm that Human Trafficking Survivors/Victims will experience while being trafficked.
Reality: Typical health problems survivors/victims: Sexually transmitted Infections, malnourishment, chronic infectious diseases such as Tuberculosis, respiratory distress, substance abuse and mental health crises, mutilations from a mature medical interventions, infertility or pregnancy complications.
Myth: It’s important to make sure Human Trafficking Survivors/victims have some type of insurance to get medical help.
Reality: An emergency department cannot not turn away a survivor/victim of human trafficking seeking health care because they don’t have insurance. The Affordable Care act provides financial assistance and support for survivors/victims that includes Medicaid, Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program, Refugee Assistance and programs for those who may not qualify for other financial assistance to ensure that the survivor/victim has access to immediate free health care.
Myth: Human trafficking victims/survivors are an urban problem and are mostly seen by County hospitals or Health departments.
Reality: Human Trafficking can be found everywhere, and impacts communities of all sizes, demographics and income levels. Hospitals in all areas need to be equipped and ready to care for this particular type of patient.
Author: Chenel Vanden Berk, BS, JD, RN, SANE-A,SANE-P